Anda di halaman 1dari 45

Body/Power/Identity: Passions of the Martyrs

Shaw, Brent D.

Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 4, Number 3, Fall 1996,


pp. 269-312 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/earl.1996.0037

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/earl/summary/v004/4.3shaw.html

Access Provided by Gonzaga University at 01/10/13 9:25PM GMT

Body/Power/Identity:
Passions of the Martyrs
BRENT D. SHAW

Martha Graham, that connoisseur of bodies, and therefore someone who


ought to know, is reported to have remarked that the body never lies.1
But in that case, what truth does it speak? Let us begin with two stories.
Both involve a woman and bodily resistance. One is pagan and fictitious. The other Christian and true.
TWO SCENES
The first is a scenario from the popular milieu of the novelmore precisely from the second-century Greek romance entitled Leukipp.2 The
heroine of the novel, Leukipp, had once been a free woman, but at this
point in the story has been reduced, by a series of conventional misfortunes (shipwreck, seizure by pirates), to the status of a slave. Her new
The author would like to thank those who attended seminars and talks at Duke University, The Pennsylvania State University, the European History Colloquium at Cornell University, and the History Colloquium at the University of Calgary, for their patience with earlier versions of this essay, and also for their helpful suggestions. He
would also like to offer his gratitude for criticisms made by Hendrika Beaulieu, Peter
Brown, Carlin Barton, Maude Gleason, Natalie Kampen, and David Satran.
1. Martha Graham, Blood Memory (New York-London: Doubleday, 1991), where
the formulation Movement never lies is also found. She begins her memories with a
telling observation that in such movement: One becomes in some area an athlete of
God.
2. Achilles Tatius, Leukipp, 6.1822; one of the more popular of the Greek novels
(to judge from the quantity of surviving papyri in Egypt), it was probably written about
the third quarter of the second century c.e. As with most ancient novelists, almost
nothing certain is known of the authorhe might have been a Greek writing from
Alexandria. The text here is that of J.-P. Garnaud, Achille Tatius dAlexandrie: Le Roman de Leucipp et Clitophon (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1991).
Journal of Early Christian Studies 4:3, 269312 1996 The Johns Hopkins University Press.

270

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

owner, a vulgar brute bearing the appropriate name of Thersandros, falls


in love with her. In order to have his imaginary dream of romantic love
fulfilled, he requires her to respond to him as if she were a free person,
one whose freely willed and volitional feelings for him will compliment
the sentiments he has for her. He advances to her beginning with words,
but then proceeds to physical touching: As he talked with her, he placed
his hand on her shoulder . . . he began to embrace her, moving forward
to kiss her. Leukipp reacts physically by assuming a posture of bodily
rejection: seeing the course his hand was going to take, moving over her
body, she bent her head forcefully downwards, resting it against her
chest. She manipulates the longing gaze. By forcibly looking downwards
and away from him, and by refusing to look into his eyes, she implicitly
rejects the connecting moment when lovers eyes meet and the most powerful emotional responses are set in motion. Thersandros, meeting resistance, responds with more forceful physical moves: he encircles her neck
even more with his arm, trying to compel her to lift up her face. But in
response she continues to hold her head bent down and tries to avoid his
kisses . . . and some time is consumed in wrestling against the force of his
hand. Thersandros then becomes more violent, escalating his use of
physical force: he puts his left hand beneath her face, while with the right
he takes hold of her hairjerking her head backward with the one, and
pushing up under her chin with the other, he forces her to lift her head.
But at the point where he is about to kiss her, the futility of what he is doing dawns on him. Which is to say that Leukipps microphysical resistances have succeeded in transforming the scene from one of seduction to
one of rape. With his volitional scenario effectively destroyed, Thersandros is forced to retreat in exasperation and to begin again afresh with a
different script that will work. As this first series of physical confrontations is closed, Leukipp can resort, once again, to words. She can label
the situation so as to make clear that the free action and the identification
of autonomous self necessary to romantic love is absent from this relationship. You are acting neither as a free man nor as a noble one (oute
hs eleutheros poieis, oute hs eugens).
Thersandros response is to redefine the relationship as one where he
will no longer approach her within the frame of romantic love, but rather
one of forced sex. She is his slave; he is her master. She will simply have
to do what he requires. Damned slave he shouts at her and strikes her
directly on the face. He shouts out that she should consider it a considerable piece of good fortune merely to be able to kiss him. Since she will not
accept his wish scenario of free desire, she is therefore to have another
forced on her: Since you will not receive me as a lover, you will experience me as master. Leukipp herself then redefines Thersandros new re-

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

271

lationship to her as that of the illegitimate domination of a totalitarian


ruler: If you choose to be a tyrant, then I must be tyrannized by you
but you will never win by force. A bystander who is watching the encounter, one Sostratos (the pirate and slave-dealer who sold Leukipp to
Thersandros) advises the liberal use of the whip to teach the woman who
is lord and master. In reply to the threat of the direct use of violence on
her body to compel her, Leukipp retorts:
Set out your instruments of torture. Bring out the wheel. Here are my arms
rack them out. Bring on you whipshere is my back, lash away. Bring out
your swordshere is my neck, hack away. Bring on the fire. Here is my
bodyburn it. Feast your eyes on a new and marvelous sightone woman,
all alone, contends with all your many tortures and overcomes them all. . . .

The challenge is one that was being made by other women in the world
of her own time.3 Leukipp then compares Thersandros to a pirate and a
bandit, the base anarchic powers of her world. He is worse than them
the illegitimacy of his power is marked by his inability to control his sexual impulses. If he cannot gratify his lust, he murders its object.
Take up all your instruments of torture, and at once; bring out against me
the whips, the wheel, the fire, the sword. . . . I am naked, and alone, and a
woman. But one shield and defense I have, which is my freedom, which cannot be struck down by whips, or cut by the sword, or burned by fire. My
freedom is something I will not surrenderburn as you might, you will find
that there is no fire hot enough to consume it.

The body itself is seen to embody identity/self/freedom and can itself be


used to resist the final acts of violence imposed on it. The I am statements that conclude the brutal scene: I amnaked, I amalone, I am
a woman (eg de kai gymn, kai mon, kai gyn) are the quintessence of
the identity problem that is at its heart, and, the power relationships that
are inherent in it. The presentation of Leukipp, the fictional person in the
world of the novelist, is that of a woman who recognizes that although
her body is owned, she is not. Though a slave, it is her will or consent that
is to be the final arbiter of the self.4
3. It is no mere coincidence that Simon Goldhill, How Like a Woman, ch. 3 (in)
Foucaults Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995), 11261, notes, at p. 117, that Her speech to him
[viz. Thersandros] is a masterpiece of empassioned self-defence that would fit well into
a Christian martyr text.
4. Primo Levi: We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with
all our strength, for it is the lastthe power to refuse our consent. From Survival in
Auschwitz, transl. Stuart Woolf of Se questo un uomo, Turin, 1958 (New York:
Macmillan, 1960/1993), 41.

272

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

The second story is the first in the surviving corpus of letters of the late
fourth-century Christian ideologue Jerome.5 It is cast in that rhetorical
mixture of eroticism and outright pornography of which Jerome, a saint,
was particularly capable.6 About the year 370, in the Ligurian municipality of Vercellae at the foot of the Italian Alps, the Roman governor who
was making the round of his judicial assizes was presented with a woman
who had been accused of adultery. The accusation was false. Her husband
(for his own reasons) had informed on her supposed involvement with a
young man. To elicit the truth from him, the young mans body was subjected to a series of cruel tortures. As the bloody hooks raked and lacerated his sides he relented, confessed, and so, as Jerome describes it,
lied against his own body. The young woman was condemned by his
lie and thus had no means of resistance left except that of her own body.
She had to show herself to be stronger than the man whose body had just
given up under the physical attacks upon itshe would be called upon to
be braver than her own sex.
As horrendous tortures were vented on her body, she had only her body
left as a mode of resistance. It is seen as being in competition, pitted
against the failed strength of the male body of her supposed lover, the
adulterer, and tested against the bodily strength of the executioner himself. As a final, desperate stratagem, she could have some hope of reversing the normal map of power by exploiting her own body. In her world,
those who ruled, adult male citizens who held formal power, were expected to exemplify an economical control of the self, a mastery over the
slavery of the passions, a rule of the cool of the mind over the heat of the
bodya special problem given prevalent views of the physiology of the
male body. But the feasting of the eyes on the sight of her bodily resistance had the opposite effect on the governor. The womans exertion of
control over her own body, and its sustaining power, drove him to the
frenzy of a wild animal. He fell into a fit of uncontrolled anger, became
irrational and out of control in a public forum and thereby brought into

5. Jerome, Ep. 1 (CSEL 54.19). The letter displays some rather unusual rhetorical
themes for Jerome; for an exploration of some of the possible contemporary contexts,
see A. Chastagnol, Le supplice invent par Avidius Cassius: Remarques sur lHistoire
Auguste et la Lettre I de saint Jrme, (in) Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium
1970 5 Antiquitas Reihe 4 (Bonn: Habelt, 1972): 95107.
6. Patricia Cox Miller, The Blazing Body: Ascetic Desire in Jeromes Letter to Eustochium, JECS 1 (1993): 2145 [see ch. 8, Jerome and His Dreams, (in) Dreams
in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 20531], is a good evocation of how Jeromes rhetoric is a paradox wherein erotic sensibilities are both denied and intensified.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

273

doubt his fitness to rule others.7 The potential for this distortion, and
hence its manipulation, even by near-dead and dying bodies, was commonly recognized: one could therefore exploit the spectacle of ones own
suffering to overcome the self-control of the spectators.8
The adulteress finally reached a point where she felt, like the fictional heroine Leukipp, that she could openly challenge her torturers to do
whatever they could to her: strike me, burn me, cut me in pieces. I did
not do it. She defeats her torturer with her body. By this time the torturer was gasping and groaning. There was no place left to wound. His
very savagery defeated, the torturer was horrified at the body which he
had so mangled.9 She wins the first round. The governor gives up in exasperation. But since the man, her putative lover, had confessed, that was
enough for himthe woman must also be guilty of adultery. He sentenced
them both to death. Once again, the young mans body proved routinely
amenable to punishmentat the first stroke of the sword the head was
severed from the rest of his body. The womans body, however, proved
miraculously resistant to steel.
The various attempts at executing her are cast in a pornography of power, of violent encounters between the male executioners body and that of
the woman. In a typical scenario of execution, forced to her knees she offers a quintessential female part, her throat, to the executioners sword.10
7. Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in
Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 12, the time worn
polarity between male self-control and its opposite, a convulsive violence, associated
with a womanish lack of self restraint, with some striking examples.
8. Plato, Rep. 439e440a; and Augustine, Conf. 6.8 (13) are the classic instances.
9. Jerome, Ep. 1.6: Caede, ure, lacera. Non feci. Again, it is hard not to see this
bodily encounter between a woman and her male torturers as not being cast by Jerome
in a covert erotic language; see Cox Miller, The Blazing Body, 378, in the context
of Ep. 125. The torturer, working away on her body, gasps and groans, where the
verb (suspiro) is also used in erotic contexts, as commonly in the lyric poetry of the
late Republic: J. N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (London: Duckworth, 1982),
195, citing Juv. Sat. 6.37, Tib. 1.8.37, Petr. Sat. 87.8, Lucret. 4.1192 (suspirat) and
Anth.Lat. 253.18 (suspiria), to which one might add, e.g., graffiti from Pompeii: CIL,
iv, 4342: suspirium puellarum tr(aex) Celadus.
10. On the throat, the other mouth, as the vulnerable part of the woman, see
N. Loraux, Regions of the Body, ch. 3 (in) Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman, transl.
A. Forster (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 4965 [Faons tragiques de tuer une femme, Paris, 1985]. G. Sissa, Greek Virginity, transl. A. Goldhammer (Cambridge., Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), 48 f. [Le corps virginal,
Paris: Vrin, 1987, 70 f.]; A. E. Hanson, The Medical Writers Woman, ch. 9 (in) D.
M. Halperin, J. J. Winkler and F. I. Zeitlin, eds., Before Sexuality: The Construction
of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1990), 30938, at pp. 32527.

274

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

His several attacks on her body with his sword are likened to repeated
sexual drives (impetus) into her body.11 At the first his sword merely
touches her body and draws a little blood. The man prepares himself for a second attack but his sword becomes limp (languidus) and
falls harmless on her neck.12 Now he is panting and gasping and in
preparing his third thrust he throws aside his cloak so that he will be able
to use all his power. He places his sword right to her throat so that,
with the pressure of his hand, he could force it into her body. But the
sword instead of proving to be sufficiently hard bent back on its hilt.13
He fails.
In describing all of these assaults, Jerome uses a language and an imagery that hints, and not too subtly, at the most obscene and insulting
physical and sexual assault that could be made on anyones body.14 In
the second attempt to execute her, a newly appointed executioner takes
three more thrusts to achieve his mission, strikes that apparently kill
her. The executioner departs, but the supposedly dead woman miraculously clings to life. Her corpse is exchanged for that of an old woman
who has just died. Taken off into hiding, she has her hair cut short and
is dressed in a mans clothing. The virile woman. Her body has, in the
end, triumphed over the attacks of the strongest of men. The whole tale
is replete with discourses of power that flow through her body, and
which are clearly understood to have political significance. They question not only the authority of the delating husband, but also that of the
governor, and, finally, of the whole authority structure of the empire.
Jerome closes his account by quoting a few words (no doubt of oral origin) from Terences play The Self-Torturer that had become a popular
exclamation: How true is it that complete legality is complete injustice.15
11. Gladius (and other sharp weapons) frequently for the penis: Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary, 2021, 219; for ictus and impetus for the male drive or attack on
the body of the woman in intercourse, ibid., 1489 and 159.
12. Languidus/langueo for the flaccid penis: see Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary,
46 f.
13. Capulus can mean either the hilt of a sword or the membrum virile: Plaut. Cas.
5.2.29; Auct. Priap. 24.7; cf. A. Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 122.
14. That is to say, Jeromes words and images all have strong sexual connotations;
on irrumatio, see Richlin, Garden of Priapus, 14950; and her, The Meaning of Irrumare in Catullus and Martial, CPh 76 (1981): 4046; Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary, 12530
15. Terence, Heauton Timoroumenos, 796: O vere, ius summum, summa malitia.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

275

A MODEL
These stories have embedded in them paradigms of how to confront power in situations where silent scripts, both individual and collective, become
public.16 Such a point is reached when individuals or communities are
driven beyond the point of any endurance, where their fundamental elements of identity are publicly questioned precisely in order to be effaced,
and there are, so to speak, no options left except to die in silence or, in
death itself to express some type of opposition to the imposition of overwhelming force. A classic instance, and certainly one critical to the later
development of Judaism, and therefore Christianity, was the Jewish resistance to Syrian domination in the decades after 168/67 b.c.e. The overpowering tyrannical force used by Syrian rulers and their agents to compel an unconditional cultural surrender was central to later literary
remembrances of the confrontation. The conflict was evoked in individual theatrical pieces in which the subjects were left with the nil choice of
either denying the very essence of their identity or accepting death. The
later scripting of this encounter in written narratives became rather elaborate fictions, all the more so since the image of collective ethnic resistance
had simultaneously to confront the ugly facts about important and powerful members of the indigenous community who did not see strict tradition as particularly worthwhileabout those who, in a word, collaborated.17 But the Maccabean accounts of opposition to foreign domination
and of the direct challenge to one sort of identity nevertheless provide us
with a classic instance of a public nothe open rejection of a ritualistic litmus test of types of sacrifice and publicly performed ceremonials that
constituted an essential surrender of community and the self. The the16. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts
(New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 1990); cf. F. Crespi, Social Action and
Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 95 f. For a parallel analysis of the
conscious manipulation of public values in the service of a hidden transcript: B. D.
Shaw, African Christianity: Disputes, Definitions, and Donatists, (in) M. R. Greenshields and T. A. Robinson, eds., Orthodoxy and Heresy in Religious Movements: Discipline and Dissent (Lewiston-Queenston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), 434.
17. D. Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism: Jewish and Christian Ethnicity in Ancient Palestine (New York-London: Doubleday-Anchor, 1992), chs. 13;
the later scripting of this confrontation varies from the one in I Maccabees that emphasizes the polarity of external threat and internal social unity, together with the heroic actions of a single individual (Mattathias at Modin), to the complex and murky picture in II Maccabees in which the external threat is ancillary to an internal culture-war,
where the deeds of the Maccabean family are peripheral to diversely striking and exemplary episodes of heroic resistance (Eleazar, the Mother and her Seven Sons, Razi).

276

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

atrical confrontations between brutal foreign overlords and recalcitrant


subjects so vividly inscribed in the books of the Maccabees provided charter-like archetypes of how to use ones body when there was no further
possibility of resistance. The body was at the epicenter of this form of public display since, in order to make ones point, one had to accept the high
probability of its obliteration.
The moral and philosophical treatises, histories, and various other literary forms generated by the Maccabean resistance reached a rather complex mix by the first century b.c.e. But the peculiar form, and document,
with which I am concerned here, however, probably dates to the late first
century c.e., and is therefore of particular relevance to the ideologies of
the emergent Jewish sect of the Christians.18 Fourth Maccabees is an extraordinary contemplation of the significances of body, soul and mind,
sexuality, death, punishment and resistance. In formulating his protocols
of refusal the writer of Fourth Maccabees was able to draw on the elaborate formal ideologies of resistance that had been developed by the lites
of the Graeco-Roman world in their encounters with tyrannical forms of
rule. The repertoire included typecast stories of individual resistance under extreme physical punishment, such as the story of the female prostitute who, being tortured by a tyrant, bit off her own tongue and spat it
in her torturers face as a symbolic final word.19 But the overriding ideology that the writer systematically appropriates was less that of exem18. As with most of the so-called pseudepigraphic texts, this one is difficult to date.
Elias Bickermann, The Date of Fourth Maccabees, Louis Ginsberg Jubilee Volume
(New York, 1945), 10512 5 Studies in Jewish and Christian History, vol. 1 (Leiden:
Brill, 1976), 27581, placed it specifically in the period when he believed Cilicia was
joined to Syria as a common Roman province (between c.e. 1954). A precise date for
the treatise is probably not possible to determine based on the internal evidence alone
(which is all that we have). So long as it is located in the period of the first centuries
c.e., that is sufficient for my purposes, since I am not arguing for any direct causal links
between the ideology in Fourth Maccabees and those expressed in other texts, but
rather that they are being generated out of common problematical concerns. Most current opinion argues (rather more convincing in my view) that Bickermanns arguments
cannot hold and that, based on stylistic, and other, considerations, the treatise is likely to date to around 100 c.e.: J. W. van Henten, Datierung und Herkunft des Vierten
Makkaberbuchs, (in) J. W. van Henten, H. J. de Jonge, P. T. van Rooden, and J. W.
Wesselius, Tradition and Re-Interpretation in Jewish and Early Christian Literature:
Essays in Honour of Jrgen C. H. Lebram (Leiden: Brill, 1986), 13749.
19. Tert. Apol. 50.78, at the end of a long list of non-Christian philosophical martyrs, but which begins with the statement that Christians, in controlling their own selfidentification, control their own destiny. The exemplary tale was renowned. Pliny (NH
7.23.87) retells it under the heading of patientia corporis, calling the case of Leaena
the prostitute (meretrix) the most renowned of all cases amongst women (clarissimum
in feminis).

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

277

plary popular stories than the more subtle naturalistic legitimation of Stoicism.20
In his borrowings, the author of Fourth Maccabees sought to link several elements in the body/identity/power matrix, but to do this in such a
way as to draw on existing orthodox ideologies on those subjects for his
own purposes. The most obvious of these is the relationship between deliberate rational reasoning (philosophtatos logos) and the body, its feelings, drives, sentimentsin short the passions (hoi pathoi).21 The main
point is that one can be Master of Oneself (autodespotos) by using mind
and logical powers to control the body. In short, a sort of Stoic philosophy writ small for everyonea conception restated again and again
throughout the treatise as its basic theme.22 In a treatise directed to the
control of the body under punishment and torture, it is perhaps interesting to note that this self-moderation is exemplified by the story of Joseph
the wise man (ho sphn) who through mental effort (dianoia) was able
to control his drives to sensual pleasure (hdupateiai), an achievement
which is seen as all the more remarkable because he was a young man
who was at the height of his drive to sexual intercourse (neos gar n kai
akmazn pros synousiasmon).23 The message is reiterated repeatedly in
the rhetoric of Fourth Maccabees: knowledge and logic enable one to control the bodys driving forces so that one does not become subject to the
bodya slave to ones passions, and so to others.24 The mind can overcome not only hedonistic pleasures, but also sensations of pain and suffering experienced by the body.25
20. B. D. Shaw, The Divine Economy: Stoicism as Ideology, Latomus 64 (1985):
1654.
21. M. Nussbaum, The Stoics on the Extirpation of the Passions, ch. 10 (in) The
Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1994), 359401 [Apeiron 20 (1987): 12977], explains the hard
line Stoic position, which came to be modified by the later Stoics who aimed at control rather than extermination; see also D. C. Aune, Mastery of the Passions: Philo, 4 Maccabees and Earliest Christianity, (in) W. E. Helleman, ed., Hellenization Revisited: Shaping a Christian Response within the Greco-Roman World (Lanham, Md.:
University Press of America, 1994), 12558.
22. M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 2, The Use of Pleasure, transl.
R. Hurley (New York: Random House, 1990), esp. introduction, ch. 3, and pt. I and
II; and The History of Sexuality, vol. 3: The Care of the Self, transl. R. Hurley (New
York: Random House, 1986), pt. 2.
23. IV Macc 2.16.
24. IV Macc 3.13.
25. IV Macc 3.17; and, to an extent perhaps unusual in some Stoic sources, the author of IV Macc (1.2027) dichtomizes the pathoi into the duality of pleasure and pain:
see Aune, Mastery of the Passions, 134 f.

278

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

The second appeal is to existing ideological norms of positive social valuation, especially to ideals of the body derived from contexts of its conscious control and visual deploymentabove all, that of the quintessential public display of personal worth through the body: the athletic contest
or agn. By recounting in lurid detail the horrible tortures inflicted on the
bodies of Eleazar, and the seven young men, and finally, their mother, the
author of Fourth Maccabees places their confrontation with political
tyranny within the framework of an athletic contest. He always presumes
an audience of onlookers, and assumes that the spectators will be hostile.
The point is to deploy ones body so as to change the assumed rules of the
gamethey are there, voyeuristically, both to enjoy the spectacle of punishment and to see it as underwriting their values: they order; you obey.
They are there to witness the final display of violent power over subject
bodies. They are also present to witness the production of a truththe
tortured subject will confess (homologeina good Stoic conception) the
necessary words and will agree to perform the required public ritualistic
acts of assent. But the subjects of torture can resist with their bodies so
that all three propositions will be defeated.
The tortured can view the confrontation, however unequal, as a contest (agn) between their body and those of the torturers and spectators.
The active agents of domination can be forced to be amazed, to wonder
(thaumazein) at the ability of the tortured body to defeat all the punishments inflicted upon it. Having that sort of control over ones own body
enables the tortured to be silent, to speak through their bodies, and thus
not to speak the required words. It is, rather, the spectators who will be
forced to confess: to admit their defeat and to confess the superior power of the tortured body. A precise parallel is drawn with the thoroughly
prepared and trained athlete: if one holds out long enough, one wins. The
victim of torture then acquires the greatest value attributed to persons of
high social status in this world: they are ennobled, imbued with an aura
of aristocratic demeanorthe type of inherent excellence reserved by nature for the ruling lite, but one which could be acquired by a victorious
athlete through the exercise of his body.
More significant than all of this is a novel value that is enshrined in
Fourth Maccabees as not just any value worth acquiring, but the preeminent excellence that is hypostatized above all othersthe one that is
vaunted as the operative guide of how to behave under extreme duress.
This was the sheer ability of the body to resist, to endure the application
of any force to it: endurance or hypomon (upomonh). Sheer endurance
was now lauded both as a behavioral practice and as a high moral ideal.
So the spectators are not only amazed and wonder at the courage and

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

279

manliness (andreia) of the Maccabean martyrsthat was quite traditionalbut also at their simple ability to endure (their hypomon). What is
stated here is so ordinary that it might escape noticeso understated that
it might be dismissed. It is a subtle part of a movement or shift that constitutes a moral revolution of sorts. Praises of active and aggressive values entailed in manliness (andreia) by almost all other writers in the world
of the Maccabees could easily fill books. The elevation to prominence of
the passive value of merely being able to endure would have struck most
persons, certainly all those spectators, as contradictory and, indeed,
rather immoral. A value like that cut right across the great divide that
marked lite free-status male values and that informed everything about
bodily behaviour from individual sexuality to collective warfare: voice,
activity, aggression, closure, penetration, and the ability to inflict pain and
suffering were lauded as emblematic of freedom, courage, and good. Silence, passivity, submissiveness, openness, sufferingthe shame of allowing oneself to be wounded, to be penetrated, and of simply enduring
all of thatwere castigated as weak, womanish, slavish, and therefore
morally bad.26 The equation of these two virtuesnobility (gennaia) and
passive endurance (hypomon)would have struck the classic male ideologue of the city state as contradictory, a moral oxymoron. But this was
precisely the concatenation of values which the author of Fourth Maccabees wrote about quite explicitly, and which he vaunted and advocated
as the ethic of primary importance to the body in the final, critical public
scenes in which it would be required to participate.
All the values and behaviors that are embodied in Fourth Maccabees
are summarized in its peroration:27
Truly divine was the contest in which they were engaged. On that day virtue
was the umpire and the test to which they were put was a test of endurance.
The prize for victory was incorruption in life without end. The first contestant was Eleazar, but the mother of the seven children also competed, as did
the brothers themselves. The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and all
living men were the spectators. Piety won the victory and gave the crown of
26. So widely analyzed and commented on by now that it hardly needs reference.
In addition to Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 2, see J. Winkler, The Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece (New YorkLondon: RKP, 1990), chs. 12; D. M. Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality, and other Essays on Greek Love (New York-London: RKP, 1990), chs. 3 and 5;
and P. Veyne, Homosexuality in Ancient Rome, ch. 3 (in) P. Aris and A. Bjin, eds.,
Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, transl. A. Forster
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1985), 1435, for some classic, though perhaps overly schematic,
formulations.
27. IV Macc 17.1116.

280

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

victory to its own athletes. Who did not wonder at the athletes of divine law?
Who were not amazed?

Therefore, the conscious production of a rather elaborate conception of


passive resistance. Or perhaps, to put it more honestly, the explicit cooptation of passivity in resistance as a fully legitimized male qualitya
choice that could be made by thinking, reasoning and logical men. That
choice could be exercised in specific dramas of political legitimation in
which, since the stakes were so high, the body itself was at the epicenter
of its viability. It is therefore no accident that the extraordinarily strong
ideologies that came to be attached to the body and its replacement came
to fruition simultaneously with this practice. The conceptions of life after
death and of the resurrection of the body are also precisely concurrent
with the Maccabean rebellion.
The reworking of traditional thematic materials and the re-presentation
of traditional stories at this same time in order to incorporate the new significance of endurance is evident in a number of other texts contemporary
with Fourth Maccabees, amongst which the Testament of Joseph is probably the prime example.28 The developmental cycle of conceptions, from
self-control and sexuality to torture and punishment, and the centrality
of hypomon, is similar to that in Fourth Maccabees, but the message is
made much more explicit. In his peroration to his assembled children,
Joseph repeatedly refers to accusation, arrest, imprisonment, and punishment; and of being humiliated, threatened, made an object of fun,
whipped, and kept under guard in prison. In all of these testings, he states,
he endured because perseverance (makrothumia) is a powerful medicine
(mega pharmakon) and endurance (hypomon) provides many good
things.29 The rest of the monologue is an unremitting catalogue of an
Egyptian womans unsuccessful attempts to compel Joseph to have sexual intercourse with her.30 The first litany of such attempts (an alternating
series of threats and enticements) is concluded by Josephs observation:
You see now, my children, what great things can be accomplished by en28. Text: M. de Jonge, ed., Testamenta XII Patriarcharum (in) A. M. Denis &
M. de Jonge, eds., Pseudepigrapha Veteris Testamenti Graece (Leiden: Brill, 1964),
6779.
29. T. Jos. 2.7: en
dka peirasmoiv dkimn me ndeixe, ka`i n
pasin autoiv
makrojmhsa

oti mga frmakn stin

makrojuma, ka`i poll`a gaj`a ddwsin


u pomon.
30. Goldhill, Foucaults Virginity, 118 f., draws attention to the centrality of the
theme in the novels, especially Heliodoros Aethiopika which has a plot very close to
T. Jos. (though Goldhill prefers the parallels in the apocryphal acts of the Apostles,
mainly those of Thekla and Paul).

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

281

durance (hypomon) and prayer. You, too, can do this if you pursue selfcontrol and purity along with endurance (hypomon) and humbleness of
heart.31 The second half of the text is devoted to yet another succession
of attempts at sexual sieges on Josephs body, this time matched by even
more savage beatings and tortures. Once again, the message is closed by
an appeal to endurancethis time linked to the transcendent value of love
or agap: You see now, my children, how many things I endured not to
bring my brothers into disgrace. You should therefore love one another
in patient endurance.32
Perhaps the most remarkable text that dates to some time in this same
penumbral age, however, is the Testament of Job. It is so thoroughly interstitial or liminal in ideas and composition that generations of scholars
have been unable to agree whether the tract is Jewish or Christian,
and they are equally undecided about a precise date and provenance. The
work seems to be rather more Jewish than Christian in many of its basic
themes, but in just as many of its novel aspects it seems closer to nascent
Christian ideologies. Many dates have been proposed, but the most probable seems to be in the early second century.33 Its importance for our inquiry is manifest. It is a treatise, which, although calqued on the canonical OT book of Job, is a rather novel composition that deals explicitly
with the problem of endurance and suffering. Without laboring over the
interesting details of this work, there are two features in it that are manifest and of interest to me. First, it is positioned in a group of works (along
with Fourth Maccabees) that are explicitly devoted to the subject of endurance (hypomon) as an autonomous conception. Then there are the
rhetorical stratagems in which the problem is presented. These terms, I
shall argue, reflect a manifest feminization of the text as compared to
its canonical OT predecessor.
31. T. Jos. 10.1: Orate oun, tkna mou, psa katergzetai u pomon,
ka`i
proseuq met a` nhsteav. Ka`i ume
iv ou n, e`
an tn
` swfronsnhn ka`i tn
a gnean
metljhte en
u pomon ka`i tapeinsei kardav.
32. T. Jos. 17.12: Orate, tkna, psa u pmeina, ina m`h kataisqnw to`uv
a gapate a lllov
a delfov mou; Ka`i u meiv oun

ka`i e n makrojumaiv sugkrptete


a lllwn

t`a ellatmata.

33. The text used is that edited by S. P. Brock, Testamentum Iobi (in) A. M. Denis
and M. de Jonge, eds., Pseudepigrapha Veteris Testamenti Graece (Leiden: Brill, 1967),
1959. It seems almost certain that Tertullian used this text (or a variant from its tradition) in his De Patientia: 14.27, reflecting TJob 3.79; 14.2 5 TJob 1.5; 14.4 5 TJob
24.4, 25.20c. Therefore, TJob should probably be dated at or before the midsecond century. Word studies seem to suggest a date contemporary with the production of the later books of the New Testamenttherefore in the decades right at the end
of the first century or beginning of the second, see D. Rahnenfhrer, Das Testament
des Hiob und das Neue Testament, ZNTW 62 (1971): 6893.

282

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

At the beginning of the dialogue that is presented as his last will and
testament, Job summons his children and reveals his identity to them: he
is a man created wholly by endurance (en pas hypomon genomenos).34
The context is one of proselytism, of Jobs conversion to true belief and
his destruction (with a gang of assistants) of a nearby temple of a false
god. What is striking is not just that Job suffers for his conversion, but
that his destruction of the temple involves him in combat with Satan and
that his reward for victory is to receive the crown of victory and resurrection and eternal life. To which Job replies: I will endure to death and
will not retreat (achri thanatou hypomein).35 Hypomon or endurance
is Jobs cardinal virtue.36 His direct confrontation with Satan is met with
precisely the same challenge that Christian martyrs were to make to their
torturers: Do whatever you will do. For if you wish to direct something
against me, I am ready to withstand whatever you bring against me.37
Job then explicitly compares his ability to display endurance under pain
to a woman in childbirth: I was not able to say a word. I was prone and
exhaustedlike a woman numbed in her pelvic region by the great number of birth pains.38 The metaphor is set in a context where it is Jobs
body, not his mind, that is handed over to Satan to torture.39
But it is Jobs wife who actually bears a major part of the narrative over
the first half of his story. In contrast to the OT Book of Job, she is actually named as one Sitis. It is she who suffers the shame and degradation
that result from the destruction of her husbands household. She is likened
to a prostitute. Her head is shaven off in ritualistic punishment, and she
34. TJob 1: eg`
w g`ar eimi o pat`hr u m
wn Iwb en
ps u pnh genmenov.
35. TJob 5: Aqri jantou u pomenw ka`i o m`h a napodsw; cf. II Macc. 14.44.
36. C. Haas, Jobs Perseverance in the Testament of Job, ch. 6 (in) M. A. Knibb
and P. W. van der Horst, eds., Studies in the Testament of Job (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1989), 11754, at pp. 11718, noting that makrojuma (and parallel
terms) and kartera (and parallels) are used as synonymous with u pomonh.
What one
is witnessing, in fact, is a usurpation of the former conception by the now increasing
dominant one of patience.
37. TJob 7.13: O poieiv pohson. ei ti g`ar bolei a ggai moi, etoimv eimi u posthnai
aper epifreiv

moi. . . .
38. TJob 18.4: Ka`i ouk h
dunmhn fjgxasjai. h
tonhmnov g`ar hmhn wv
gun h
`
pareimnh t`av osf`
uav ap`
o tou plhjouv t
wn wdnwn.

Parallels with Qumran texts and


the Psalms have been noted (see Haas, Jobs Perseverence, 123): And I was confined like the woman about to bring forth at the time of her first child-bearing (1QH
3.6 f.). This is significant since Jobs wife is later compelled to admit (24.13) that her
birth pains were all in vain.
39. TJob 20.23: ka`i apelj`

wn thsato t`o s
m mou par`a to
u Kurou ina
epengkh

moi plhg`hn. ka`i tte pardwkn me o Kuriov eiv qeirav auto


u qrhsasjai
t
w
smati wv
hboleto,

t
hv d`e yuq
hv mou ouk edwken aut
w
t`hn exousan.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

283

is subjected to repeated public humiliation. Sitis, however, is not able to


endure these attacks on her person, and accordingly has to be lectured by
her husband Job: If we have received good things from the hand of God,
should we not in turn endure all evil things? Rather, let us be patient till
the Lord, in pity, shows us mercy. Matching the new significance attributed to Jobs wife, is the central role played by Jobs three daughters in the
culminating episode of the text. Jobs daughters protest the distribution
of all their fathers worldly goods to his sons. But Job reproves his daughters dismay when he bestows upon them a gift that he manifestly holds
to be a much better and more important inheritance than the one he has
given to his sonsthe daughters receive special multicolored belts that are
suffused with marvelous magical powers.40
Job persists in his grinding contest with Satan and finally produces a
state of sheer exhaustion in his persecutor. Satan compares himself to an
athlete, who even though he has the superior (literally, the upper) physical position, has been defeated by the one who is pinned underneath.41
Hence the final words of Job to his children: Now then, my children, you
too must show patience in everything that happens to you, for endurance
is better than anything.42 In the rhetorical formation of this text, with
its obvious emphasis on passive suffering on one level, there is a not-toocovert feminization of the text that is coordinated with it on another level.43 Not only does Jobs wife become a recognizable character who is central to the first part of the narrative, but his daughters are the main
characters in which the whole story finds its end. The degree of the shift
has been qualitatively, and quantitatively, observed. Quite apart from the
anonymity and marginal reference to Jobs wife and daughters in the OT
book, van der Horst notes that not even 1 per cent of the verses of the
book of Job speak of women, his wife and daughters . . . in contrast no
fewer than 107 out of 388 verses in T. Job deal with women, i.e., almost
40. TJob 4650, with a description of the marvellous effects on the girls when they
put them on.
41. TJob 27.35.
42. TJob 17.7: n
un o
un, tkna mou, makrojum
hsate ka`i ume
iv en
pnti sumbanonti
u min, oti krettwn est`
in pant`ov h
makrojuma.
43. From this broader perspective, I am not concerned with debates over whether
this image of women is meliorist or simply another variation of misogyny: see, e.g.,
S. R. Garrett, The Weaker Sex in the Testament of Job, JBL 112 (1993): 5570, as
opposed to P. W. van der Horst, Images of Women in the Testament of Job, ch. 5
(in) M. A. Knibb and P. W. van der Horst, eds., Studies on the Testament of Job (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 93116. I am interested in the deployment
of different gender types in the text itself and how this reflects, or reveals, changing
emphases on fundamental values and how those values are tactically presented.

284

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

thirty times as much space as in the biblical book.44 The degree of shift,
paralleling the increased emphasis on the mother of the seven sons in
Fourth Maccabees as compared to Second Maccabees, must be deliberate
and must reflect the desire of the author to develop the problem of patience by deploying a more feminized rhetoric.
A HISTORY OF ENDURANCE:
LA NOUVELLE CONOMIE DU SALUT
The texts of Fourth Maccabees, the Testament of Job and the Testament
of Joseph are just indicators in a larger shift in values that comes into
sharper focus in the penumbral age of the first century c.e.45 The problematic issues of the time seek definition through the public rituals of trial and torture, come to be expressed in an explicit terminology of their
own, and are consciously reflected upon in written texts.46 The novel sentiments of these changes, however, cannot be read in isolation. They betoken a new role that could be thought about, and attributed to, the body.
A noticeable tendency in the current application of Foucauldian precepts
to the problem is to produce rather manichaean models of male and female bodies, and of maleness and femaleness. But not even in the
most refined of male ideologies in antiquity, that of the high Greek citystate or polis, whether in its philosophical discourses or in its technical
medical treatises, was the male body (and therefore the problem of manliness or andreia) seen as a seamless whole constructed solely of male elements. Rather, from his very conception, and in his growth, the man and
his manliness were constructed of both male and female constitutive materials, so that even the act of procreation of a new male body
was, so to speak, a crapshoot as to which elements in the seed of either partner (the male or female elements in a mans sperm) would predominate.47
44. Van der Horst, Images of Women, 9495.
45. The phrase la nouvelle conomie du salut is borrowed from Spicq Upomonh,

Patientia, 101 (no. 56 below): Il rest voir la place et le sens de lupomon h dans la
nouvelle conomie du salut, referring to its new function in the New Testament and
Pauline ideology of personal salvation.
46. I shall not be dealing with all instances; for overviews, see the standard encyclopaedic treatments by M. Spanneut, Geduld, RAC 9 (1976): 24394; and
F. Hauck, Upomonh,
s.v. (mnw), TDNT 4 (1942), 58593 [Engl. transl. TDNT 4
(1967/1975), 57488], who cites the earlier bibliography.
47. Hippok. De Gen. 6, 7.479 (Littr), see I. M. Lonie, The Hippocratic Treatises
On Generation, On the Nature of the Child, Diseases IV (New York-Berlin:
de Gruyter, 1981), 3; for comment, see M. Gleason, The Semiotics of Gender: Physiognomy and Self-Fashioning in the Second Century c.e., ch. 12 (in) D. M. Halperin,

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

285

So too a mans being consisted of various parts (tripartite in the classic


Platonic formulation) where lesser bodily elements, including those of
mind and soul, contained weaker feminine parts with which the man
had to contend. But in this overall economy of the body the lesser
virtues also had their necessary part to playin the general definition, and
defense, of the self these less manly virtues, such as the long-term power of simple endurance, were deemed just as important in any mans moral
armament. That is to say, for the man, something as self-evidently contradictory to the quintessence of what he was to benamely, the passive
ability simply to stand in ones place and to take itwas thought to be
as necessary for his survival as the higher male virtues of assertive and
purposive action. The need for such unmanly virtues was admitted, but
their denigration was simultaneously affirmed. In his extensive discussion
of shame, Aristotle concluded that, people feel shame when they suffer
or have suffered things that contribute to dishonor . . . of which being
physically violated is one . . . for submission and lack of resistance comes
from effeminacy or cowardice.48 No doubt, that is why the later Hellenistic collection of Platonic definitions had to report what was by then
the common defense for such weak and inferior behavior when it had to
be exhibited: if necessary, it could be justified in the name of the beautiful and the good.49
This hidden economy of the body resonates not so much in the publicly
concerned writings of the city-state, especially those of its philosophical
ideologues, as in texts marginal to its concerns, from epic and lyric poetry to the technical jargon of the doctors.50 The polarization of ideals of
the body engendered by the emergence of the politicized city-state constructed males as persons who had bodies that stood erect, inflicted pain,
and died on the field of battle; female ones as suffering bodies, lying prone,
giving birth in bed.51 Conceptions of civic bodies were therefore attached
J. J. Winkler & F. I. Zeitlin, eds., Before Sexuality, 389415, at pp. 39091; and A. E.
Hanson, Conception, Gestation, and the Origin of Female Nature in the Corpus Hippocraticum, Helios 19 (1992): 3171.
48. Arist. Rhet. 2.6.13: a p`o a nandrav g a` r h deilav h
u pomon`h ka`i t`o m`h a mnesjai. Transl. George A. Kennedy, Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 145.
49. Ps.-Plat. Horoi 412c: kartera: u pomon`h lphv
eneka to
u kalo
u u pomon`h
pnwn
enika to
u kalou; cf. 412b: egkrteia:

dnamiv u pomenwtik h
` lphv.
50. N. Loraux, Loprateur fminin, (in) Les expriences de Tirsias: Le fminin
et lhomme grec (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 726 5 The Experiences of Tiresias: The
Feminine and the Greek Man, transl. P. Wissing (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1995), 3 f.
51. Loraux, Le lit, la guerre, ch. 1 (in) Les expriences de Tirsias, 2953 [from
LHomme 21 (1981): 3767] 5 The Experiences of Tiresias, 2343.

286

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

to specific barometers of pain and resistance.52 The formal texts that paraded these dichotomies, however, barely disguised the trench warfare of
continually disputed public meanings and aggravated inner doubts that
accompanied them. Such an underground bodily economy, existing in the
shadow of what was aggressively asserted and publicly vaunted, was a
rather disturbing thingespecially since its values conflicted so much
with the superior valuation placed on the male virtues of penetration, aggression, action, and domination. It was recognized that the conditions
necessary for the demonstration of these were not always fulfilled either
on the critical proving ground of andreic ideas and bodies, the battlefield,
nor even within the body of the man himself. The internal struggle to
maintain a corporeal entity that was under constant insidious microsieges required for its defense precisely those lesser feminine powers
within the body. It took frank discussion, and a critical analysis that did
not flinch from such undesirable and disturbing presences, to bring them
into the open and force their recognition. But that led to a well-nigh unresolvable debate on just what manliness or andreia might be under conditions where bravery might mean doing nothing with your body except
waiting, and sometimes not even with the higher manly knowledge of
superior purpose. Not surprisingly, it was a debate that tended to resolve
itself, as in Platos Laches (a dialogue on the definition of manliness and
courage) in moral and epistemological gridlock.
Only on special occasions, therefore, could it be admitted, as in Perikles Funeral Oration on behalf of the Athenian war dead (430 b.c.e.),
that those who had lost on the field of battle had, regardless of all other personal flaws and impediments, acquired the courage of real men (andros aret). Whatever moral failings and wrongs had stained the private
lives of these men, Perikles asserts, were now effaced by the good they had
achieved by their death. They had endured and stood their ground with
their bodies (to dergon t smati hypemeinan) and so had arrived at the
height of glory (dox).53 By basing their actions not on the shorter-term
temporal values of social status, privilege and wealth, but rather on the
hope (elpis) of a long-term communitarian value, they had overcome. But
the suggestive ideas and sentiments implicit in this interpretation of death
52. Loraux, En guise de conclusion: Le naturel fminin dans lhistoire, (in) Les
expriences de Tirsias, 290 [La cit, lhistorien, les femmes, Pallas 32 (1985): 839]
5 The Experiences of Tiresias, 241, citing Plato, Laws 6.781.5a rather revelatory
text.
53. Thuc. 2.42.4; the precise relationship of actions to virtues, and the combination
of these with exact political, material and ethical goals, is rather unclear, however, in
this perhaps the single most difficult sentence in all of Thucydides.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

287

remained adumbrated and embedded in far more dominant values. They


were carefully defined, and confined, until Greek men were faced with the
conscious recognition that they themselves were now inferior, weak, passive, and the victims of anothers successful aggression. Then a Polybius
could begin to explore a line (later to be more forcefully and consciously
developed by Posidonios in tandem with the ideology of Stoicism) that
victims who had been soundly defeated but who could still endure might
also be able to win.54 This was a long, slow, and sporadic emergence from
its former confines of a revised perspective on the values of weakness and
endurancea revision that had direct implications for the modes in which
gendered values and roles could be assessed and deployed.
What one sees reflected in texts like Fourth Maccabees, therefore, is the
result of a progressive loosening of rigid gender categories from their anchoring in the social hierarchies of the polis. It was this distancing, the attachment of the body as a subject to a distant natural cosmos, that contributed to new valuations of the body itself.55 The development of these
new values could exploit a variety of existing moral discourses, including
the traditional behaviour of a people that had learned the virtues of endurance, and expressed them in an ideology of hope and expectation of
the future.56 One typical manner in which these ideas were transferred to
new cultural contexts was quite literally by translation. In the Alexandrian translation of the Tanakh into Greek the typical Hebrew terms indicating hope, expectation, suffering, and endurance were translated by the
Greek verb hypomen, and especially by its noun form, hypomon.
Whereas previously the verbal form had been almost the sole usage and
it had been used to describe discrete actions or behaviors, the noun was
now brought systematically into play to exalt the thing itself as a manifest and permanent ideal. It is in the Graeco-Judaic texts of the Hellenistic period, mainly in the so-called pseudepigrapha, that the abstract noun
hypomon first commonly appears as the specific designation of this elaborated virtue.57 Reduced to its constituent elements, the bare word means
to remain underneath something or to lie beneath something. It has
54. Polyb. 3.4.46.
55. Brown, Body and Society, esp. 2635, on how the Judaism of the period
posited a wholly different orientation of the mind-body duality within a cosmic monistic frame.
56. J. de Guibert, Sur lemploi delpv et de ses synonymes dans le nouveau testament, RevScRel 4 (1913): 56569; C. Spicq, Upomonh,
Patientia, RSPT 19 (1930):
95106; and A. M. Festugire, Upomonh dans la tradition grecque, RevScRel 21
(1931): 47787, a subject greatly neglected since these early studies, it seems.
57. In addition to the Testaments of Job and Joseph, see, e.g., the so-called Psalms
of Solomon.

288

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

strong connotations of proneness and hence of literal inferiority. Both, of


course, had strong implications for a gendered discourse.58
The ideology is reflected in a flotsam of writings, mostly contemporary
in time, including those by Jews in the Hellenistic diaspora like Philo who
added Stoic conceptions to his Platonism in order to map the frontiers between that which could and could not be endured, the writings of the
pseudo-Andronikos who wrote a whole treatise on the subject, and early
Christian writers such as Clement (also from Alexandria) who recognized
the links of patience with karteria.59 When one considers the ideology
of endurance in Philo, however, it is manifest that it is placed in a completely different field of meaning than the endurance of public torture
which is our concern here. His deployment of hypomon is allied to a
struggle for self-perfection in which his main culture heroes are Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacoball of whom exemplify varying types of self-moderation or sacrifice in order to better themselves spiritually. His prime examples of endurance in his own personal struggle to control his own passions
included suffering the absence of friends and family when he went on
a retreat into the wilderness, and enduring the hubbub of urban crowds
and the pressures of extravagant dinner parties. In all these scenarios, hypomon plays a marginal part in a story of almost purely personal concerns.60 Despite the overlap of some terminology and borrowed philosophical concepts, Philos program could hardly be more different from
that set himself by the author of Fourth Maccabeesa tract that contemplates direct confrontation with powerful rulers in public and which
accepts the torture of the human body as the paradigm of the problem of
suffering and the definition of the self.
These developments were part of large and shifting, and therefore contested, innovations in moral patterns within which hypomon was to acquire great significance in Pauline and New Testament ideology. Rather
early on endurance was recognized as a behaviour that could be cultivat58. E. Goffman, Gender Advertisements (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1979), 41.
59. Festugire, Upomonh dans la tradition grecque, 4823; see Philo, Leg. Alleg.
1.65 and 67 5 von Arnim, SVF, iii, 263; De Sept. et Fest. Dieb. 2 5 von Arnim, SVF,
iii, 286; Clem. Strom. 2.8; and the anonymous treatise o protreptik`ov eiv u pomonhn.

60. Some of this is apparent in the evidence from Philo that Aune, Mastery of the
Passions, 12634, retailsbut he does not catch the absolute schism between this
world and that of IV Macc. The differences are much greater than the fact that Philo
suggests that most persons cannot attain a state of apatheia whereas IV Macc suggests
that complete mastery over the passions is possible (p. 139); on the systematic background, see M. Spanneut, Apatheia ancienne, apatheia chrtienne: Ire partie, Lapatheia ancienne, ANRW 2.36.7 (1994), 46414717.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

289

ed and adopted to save oneself when faced by the forces of persecution.61


Paul explicitly lauded the virtue of subservience in his model of marriage
as a type of mutual servitude, and in his model of the family as a slavelike institution embedded in a cosmic servile system, with God as the master and with the believers as his slaves (or emancipated children). He could
also link it, as did the author of Fourth Maccabees, to the agonistic model of the competitive disciplining of your body.62 To endure punishment
passively, especially where it was undeserved, was actually honorable
when it was done for a good purpose: You see, there is honor in enduring the pains of undeserved punishment, if it is done for the sake of
God . . . the particular honor in the sight of God is enduring punishments
patiently when you are being punished for having done what is right.63
Specifically linked, as it increasingly came to be, to the intensely defining
civic experiences of trial and torture, the ideology was going to have a
near-perfect theatrical venue provided by the Roman state for its deployment.
The connection between the witnessing of martyrdom and the virtue of
endurance is made evident in the letters of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch,
written during the course of his passage under arrest to Rome where he
was to face execution in the arena. Ignatius had been condemned for the
name and had been sentenced to die ad bestias. The conventional date
is about c.e. 108.64 The basic facts relating to Ignatius and the problem
of martyrdom and body are manifest in his letters, especially that to the
Romans. Most important is that Ignatius wished to die. Indeed, he explicitly states that I desire (or love) to suffer.65 Throughout his letters
Ignatius identifies the core virtue of endurance (hypomon) as resulting
from the type of self-training that an athlete or a gladiator undergoes in
order to confront suffering.66 Endurance is seen as the means by which
the individual human being can withstand not just the actual tortures and
61. Luke 21.19; Spicq, Upomonh,
Patientia, 102, who cites Philip Legrange: Le
sens de upomon

h est lendurance des perscutions. Si on cde, on perd la vie, si on rsiste on lacquierte, donc videmment la vie ternelle.
62. I Cor 9.2427; again, appropriating existing values: V. C. Pfitzner, Paul and the
Agon Motif: Traditional Athletic Imagery in Pauline Literature, SNT 16 (Leiden: Brill,
1967), esp. 2337.
63. I Pet 2.1820: the discourse is on the obedience of slaves to their masters; their
endurance to unjust suffering is likened to the model of Christ. The whole letter is firmly set within a servile ideology.
64. Ign. Eph. 1.23.1 retails the basic facts of his conviction and sentence; the date
of 108 is assigned his martyrdom in the chronicle of Eusebius.
65. Ign. Trall. 4.1, a frank statement: a gap
w m`en g`ar t`o pajein. . . .
66. Ign. Eph. 3.1.

290

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

bodily punishments of Roman executions in the arena, but also defeat the
enemy who is identified with the Devil.67 This hypomon is parallel to the
endurance and suffering which Jesus had, and which God now has for us
as sinners.68 Endurance is justified on the grounds of the achievement
of a post-resurrection embodiment, a specific connection that leads Ignatius virulently to oppose docetic views of Christs body. In an almost
pathetic manner, he protests that it is not possible for him to accept an
ethereal disembodied view of Christ. Since it is Christs actual suffering in
the body that establishes the mimetic model for martyrs like himself, to
hold that Christs suffering was only a thought experience is unacceptable, indeed unthinkable. In Ignatius own words: Why in that case
would I pray to do battle with the wild beasts? If that were true, I would
be dying in vain.69
A meaningful death was the one thing that Ignatius was not willing to
forfeit. Through the body Ignatius is able to link several images of suffering and endurance, but specifically that of a woman in childbirth to
whom he compares the pains and sufferings endured by himself in order
to achieve a new birth.70 The topos of childbirth as an endurance of pain
was an old one, but the hope engendered in it (if any) was the child born
of the woman, not, as in Ignatius case, the literal rebirth of ones own
body. This specifically Christian type of endurance was then re-attached
to the ability of the sufferer successfully to challenge the torturer, like the
fictional woman Leukipp, to a duel of bodily strengths: Let them come
at mefire and cross and contests with wild beasts, cutting and tearing
me apart, racking my bones, mangling my limbs, crushing my whole body,
cruel tortures of the Devil.71 Finally, in appealing to Pauls classic definition of love as that which is able to endure all, Ignatius is able to reconnect these novel conceptions to God and to re-anchor them in a tra u pomnontev t`hn pasan ep
67. Ign. Magn. 1.1: en
w
reian tou arqontov to
u
n prathtov, en
aiw
nov; Trall. 4.1: qrxw ou
h
kataletai arqwn to
u aiw
nov
totou. . . .
68. Ign. Pol. 3.1: mlista d`e
eneken jeo
u pnta u pomnein h
mav dei, ina ka`i aut`ov
h
m
av u pomen . . . (3.2) t`on kat`a pnta trpon di hm
av upomenanta. . . .
69. Ign. Trall. 10: ei g`ar, w
sper ajeoi
ontev, toutstin
apistoi, lgousin t`o
dokein peponjnai autn, auto`i ontev t`o dokein, eg
w t ddemai; t d`e ka`i e
uqomai
jhriomaq
hsai; dwre`an ou n apojn

h
skw. ara ou n katayedomai tou kurou.
70. Ign. Rom. 6.12: o toketv moi epkeitai.

The metaphor was already present in


the NT: Acts 2.24: wd
inev to
u jantou; and again at Galatians 4.19: tkna mou, o
uv
plin wdnw.

...
71. Ign. Rom. 5.3: pur ka`i staur`ov, jhrwn te sustseiv, a
natoma`i, diairseiv,
skorpismo`i o stwn, sugkopa`i mel
wn, a lesmo`i olou tou smatov, kaka`i kolseiv
tou diablou ep
e m`e e rqsjwsan. . . .

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

291

ditional Jewish conception of a divinity who for the sake of the individual believer is able to endure everything.72 The very conception of the
divinity itself has thereby been almost imperceptibly altered and made to
exalt the passive in His nature.
PATIENCE IN A ROMAN WORLD
By the end of the first century b.c.e., these words and ideas had sufficiently permeated the Roman world to allow a high-ranking man like Cicero to identify hypomon with the Latin patientia.73 In this strategic redeployment one can find a conscious interweaving of elements derived
from traditional Jewish and Hellenistic popular milieux, with those derived from the litist ideologies of city-state and empire. In this dialectical process, Stoic ideology had a special place. It is no accident that Musonius Rufus could write deliberately about a womans ability to control
her body just like that of a man, and thereby to think of death not as an
evil . . . and likewise not to shun hardship . . . so that it is likely that such
a woman will be energetic and strong in the endurance of pain. What is
more, such a woman would not be willing to submit to anything shameful because of fear of death or unwillingness to suffer hardship, and she
would not be intimidated by anyone because he is of noble birth, powerful or wealthyno, not even if he were the tyrant of her city.74 As an
lite ideologue, Musonius read all of this backwards, so to speak. His
women are able to possess and develop a faculty of courage just like
men, but all this newfound manliness (andreia) of theirs is directed towards the quite traditional roles of being able to endure domestic housework and to protect the sexual honor of their household for their husbands sake. Still, it is significant that womanly courage and endurance
are serious problems for him, and that feminine endurance and resolve
were coming to be equated in some sense with the positive value of manliness.
Finally, extensive contemplations of the conceptions of endurance and
patience came, by mid-century, to characterize the philosophical writings
72. Ign. Smryn. 9.2: a pnta me ka`i parnta hgap

hsate. a meboi u min jev, di


on
pnta u pomnontev autou texesje.
73. Cic. Tusc. Disp. 4.24.53, crediting Chrysippos (von Arnim, SVF, iii, 285).
74. Musonius Rufus 34; C. E. Lutz, Musonius Rufus: The Roman Socrates, YCS
10 (1947): 3147, at 4243. The verb u pomnw is used in both passages. It should be
pointed out that Foucault substantially distorts the extent to which Musonius claims
relapsed on, and underwrote, quite traditional roles and values: The Wife, pt. 5 (in)
The History of Sexuality, vol. 3, 14785.

292

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

of Seneca, a Roman who was almost the exact contemporary of Jesus and
Paul (he was born perhaps a year or two after the former, and died by
what was an imposed self-execution a few years before the latter was executed at Rome). Seneca discusses endurance and patience again and
again, but primarily within the context of two species of bodily suffering
and pain: illness (a personal affliction) and torture (a public misfortune).
In fact, Senecas repeated conscious discussion of the imminence and
threat of torture are probably the first texts, and certainly first pre-Christian ones, to do so extensively. The most expansive and conscious deliberations on the nexus of pain, torture and endurance/patience are to be
found in his philosophical letters. The literary form in which this discussion is borne, a vicarious form of diarizationone which took what was
formerly a genre used for private communication as a mode for public discourseis in itself highly significant. We might first consider a typical passage from one of the earlier letters in which he established a distance between one and ones body (one only has a sort of guardianship or tutela
over it).75 He then specifies three sorts of attack the body will have to endure: (i) want (e.g., hunger), (ii) sickness, and (iii) violence directed against
it by stronger persons. Whereas (i) and (ii) are silent, it is the very publicity of the third threat (by which Seneca clearly envisages only torture) that
makes it the most fearedbecause it is usually applied in the context of
the uproar of a crowd and in front of public onlookers.76
The other evil [viz., of torture, rather than natural illness] is a great public
display. Surrounding it are swords and torches, chains and a fury of wild animals, which it sets loose on the disemboweled innards of humans. Imagine
seeing in this place the prison, the crosses, the horses of torture (eculei), the
metal claw, the stake driven right through the middle of a man until it protrudes through his mouth, limbs torn in opposite directions by chariot
wheels, that infamous shirt laced and dipped with flammable substances
and other barbaric things that I have not mentioned. It is not surprising that
our greatest fear is of this spectacle, the variety of whose instruments is so
great and machinery of which is so terrible. Just as the torturer accomplishes
75. Sen. Ep. 14 (the specific argument here is from 14.1).
76. Sen. Ep. 14.46: Ingens alterius mali pompa est; ferrum circa se et ignes habet
et catenas et turbam ferarum, quam in viscera inmittat humana. Cogita hoc loco carcarem et cruces et eculeos et uncum et adactum per medium hominem, qui per os
emergeret, stipitem et distracta in diversum actis curribus membra, illam tunicam alimentis ignium et inlitam et textam, et quicquid aliud praeter haec commenta saevitia
est. Non est itaque morum, si maximus huius rei timor est cuius et varietas magna et
apparatus terribilis est. Nam quemadmodum plus agit tortor, quo plura instrumenta
doloris exposuit (specie enim vincuntur qui patientiae restitissent); ita ex iis quae animos nostros subigunt et domant plus proficiunt, quae habent quod ostendant.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

293

more, the more he displays his instruments of pain and suffering (indeed by
show alone those who would have resisted him with endurance are beaten),
in the same way, out of the range of things that subdue and domesticate our
minds, those are most effective that have aspects which they can display.

In this passage, as in many others, Seneca explicitly speaks of endurance


(patientia) as a means of resisting the inroads of torture on the body. But
he recognizes the paradoxical nature of passive resistance as a virtue. Furthermore, the specific ways in which the apparent coherence with the martyrological texts is broken are several. First, Seneca ranks patience as a
secondary virtueone that only becomes apparent in conditions of adversity.77 He further notes that it is a feminine virtue, comparing the
virtue of endurance under torture to the joy acquired from enduring the
pain of childbirth.78
In terms of difference, however, it is more significant to note that Seneca
crafts his vivid descriptions of the afflictions vented on the body to support a forceful argument that we should assiduously shun dangerous situations that might threaten us with the imposition of these tortures. We
ought to avoid provoking the powerful and not make ourselves an object
of attention to those who might wish to harm us. The real danger is death.
For Seneca, the linkage of patience with a transcendent value of a renewed
body is blocked by the fact that the measured end, the modus, is a permanent physical end. Endurance and patience, therefore, have their own
absolute physical limits. In an inversion of the Christian connection between patience and death compelled upon him by the recoil effect of
that absolute limit, Seneca must assert that one will cease to fear when
one ceases to hope.79 The theme is picked up in another letter devoted to
the subject (Ep. 66) in which Seneca, by setting up an imagined adversary,
attempts to defend the passive virtue of endurance. He puts the question
directly to his interlocutor: Does he consider that the manliness or bravery (virtus) of one who endures a siege with the greatest of endurance is
the same as one who actively attacks an enemy emplacement?80 The objection is that there must be some distinction between the pleasure (gaudium) of the latter and the condition of unyielding endurance of pain.
Senecas counter is that there is no difference in substance; the only difference is in the way they are displayed or shown.
It is also important to understand the moral context in which Seneca
77. Sen. Ep. 66.36; 71.17.
78. Sen. Ep. 28.14.
79. Sen. Ep. 2.
80. Sen. Ep. 66.12: Quid? Tu non putas parem esse virtutem eius, qui obsidionem
patientissime sustinet?

294

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

evaluates this virtue of endurance. He appeals to the cases of gladiators


who killed themselves rather than suffer humiliation. It is a matter of honor, which is the highest measurement of virtue.81 Therefore, mere endurance is not enough. It is the public face of such endurance that matters. In a letter ostensibly devoted to the problem of enduring illness (Ep.
67), most of Senecas examples are in fact focused on the body under public torture. He makes the point that it is not mere endurance, but brave
endurance that counts as a virtue. The problem for Seneca is that such
bravery is seen by the dominant values of his time to be womanish. The
way he counters this is, once again, to deviate from his ostensible primary deployment of endurance in illness to the more striking cases of endurance by athletes and by those who are suffering political torture. First,
he notes that although athletes endure enormous bodily punishment, they
do not do so merely because they are fighting (he is clearly envisaging the
martial contests) but in order that they might fight better. The distinction
might seem picayune, but it does transfer the endurance from a passive to
an active mode, and therefore removes from it the stigma of being womanish: Quid ergo? Non sentis si illum muliebriter tuleris? Secondly, he
compares the type of training one undergoes to fight better in an athletic
contest to the active role that the passive sufferer can assume under torture. One can win by smiling as one experiences overwhelming pain; the
more the torturer applies tortures, the more your body can actually challenge the torturer. One can speak with the refusal of silence.82
Even more [terrible and frightening] are the firebrands, the horse of torture
(eculeus), the burning plates, and the instruments that re-open swollen
wounds and which drive their tracks even deeper into the body. But there are
men who have not uttered so much as a groan under these tortures. Its not
enough, [says the torturer]. The tortured man has made no request. Its not
enough. He has not spoken a word. Its not enough.

In his frequent, if anguished, self-debates over the problem of torture,


suffering, and patience, Seneca grapples with most of the critical elements
of the novel ideology, but is resistant, as one would expect, to the final
conquest of torture and death by a literal, renewed life-after-death and a
bodily resurrection. His is a more mundane recognition of the hard physical limits or modus of a corporeal body and an equally corporeal spirit.
There is a second face to this movement in values that is not as evident
in Seneca as elsewhere. The simultaneous rise to a position of predominance of the more conscious recognition of feminine or weak virtues
81. Sen. Ep. 70.89; 2026 and 27
82. Sen. Ep. 78.1519, at 19.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

295

and the problematization of women in terms analogous to those usually


set for men is found in a wide range of ideological writings between the
Roman Musonius and the Greek Plutarch. The coincident fascination
cannot be accidental.83 The linkage also had connections with a new discourse on body that envisaged a spirituality that was more somatic, and
which was therefore concerned with the experience of recurrent corporeal
pain. The conscious deployment and extraction of the ideology, however,
moved simultaneously along two lines. Firstly, certain elements of it were
not absolutely new; there were indeed traditional strands of argument discernible in its development. But the isolation and elevation of passive
power and resistance to a position of centrality in written texts, and the
forging of one of the central pillars of moral guidance for men, required
wholly new emphases and degrees of consciousness. The act of passivity
became a deliberative action for men, a choice they could make; for
women it remained, as it had always been, a constant role. They always
had to practice endurance as a simple on-going role embedded in the experience of their daily life, including the not inconsequential aspect of having to meet domestic and social violence.84 The crossover was provoked
by the split presentations of the self in which men had one experience
and women two.85 As has been perceptively remarked upon, this new talk
about the body is actually a discourse on a discourse: it is a way male writers could use the female body as a corporeal means of interpreting their
world, including forms of resistance to it, and hence no different than the
line of sight extending from the writer of Fourth Maccabees, through the
novelist Achilles Tatius, to the saintly Jerome.86
83. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 3; with comments by Averil Cameron,
Redrawing the Map: Early Christian Territory after Foucault, JRS 76 (1986):
26671, who connects the increasing privatization of public life (leading to the concentration on the affective economy of the married couple, p. 267) with the ends of
this new ideology: The other side of a repressive discourse about women, and the limitation on and heightened self consciousness about ones own [sc. male?] sexual practice, is of course to glorify a female figure who can be made to represent the ultimate
in submission (p. 270).
84. N. Scheper-Hughes, Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in
Brazil (Berkeley-Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1992), with fine attention to the assumed roles of women.
85. In Scotts terms (Domination and the Arts of Resistance, 44), slaves, like women,
have a strong experience of both public and private transcripts; cf. Winkler, Double
Consciousness in Sapphos Lyrics, ch. 6 (in) The Constraints of Desire, 16287, esp.
174 f.
86. C. Bynum, The Female Body and Religious Practice in the Later Middle Ages,
(in) M. Feher, R. Naddaff and N. Tazi, eds., Fragments for a History of the Human
Body, vol. 1 (New York: Zone, 1989), 161219, at 162, 16566, 16768.

296

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

By the turn of the second century in the Latin West, a comprehensive


and coherent exposition of the new ideology of patience was capable of
elucidation. This patience was integrally linked to a body image that, as
the very word passion itself indicates, referred simultaneously to physical pain and to the physical sensations of erotic pleasure. Even the latter
passion was not neutral in its meaning, but was heavily freighted as it went
through shifts in erotic significances. Through the late Republic and early empire, the term to suffer when applied to the experience of sexual
intercourse was very negative in its connotations, a negativity that represented a continuity of sexual valuations developed in the context of the
classic Greek city-state.87 It usually signified a man (the pathicus) who
suffered or endured an aggressive sexual attack on his body, who was the
passive recipient of intercourse and so was acting like a woman.88 The
behaviour of patientia or endurance was therefore rather bad, in fact one
of the worst faults that could mark a mans behaviour and character.89
The sexual sufferer or endurer, the pathicus, was an effeminate male, a
traitor to his existence on two counts. The verb sustinere (to sustain, to
withstand) was used to describe the patience with which his body had
to accept a sexual assault on it.90 In this same age, however, the virtue of
patience (patientia) was one of the greatest that could be ascribed to a
woman. It features prominently in the effusive praise of the virtues of his
noble wife in the late Republic by her grateful husband.91 Over the course
of the first centuries of the empire, however, the noun passio (also derived
from the same verb to suffer) came to have a positive valuation to refer to the passionate experience of heterosexual intercourse, where the
87. M. Gleason, Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), passim; note p. 4, n. 11, quoting Sen.
Con. 10, praef. 1011, for a pun on the name of one Passienus: Ille Passieno prima eius
syllaba in Graecum mutata obscenum nomen imposuit; p. 82 for another striking example. In the Greek world the association of passive endurance (upomonh,
u pomnein)
is associated with condemnations of passivity in male homosexual acts in secular legal
sources well into the Byzantine period, see Ecologa 17.38 5 L. Burgmann, ed., Ecloga: Das Gesetzbuch Leons III. und Konstantinos V. FBR, no. 10 (Frankfurt: Lwenklau, 1983), 23839 (from the mid-eighth century C.E.); and S. Troianos, Kirchliche
und weltliche Rechtsquellen zur Homosexualitt in Byzanz, JOByz 39 (1989): 2948.
88. Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary, 123, 133, 18990, 223, 228; Richlin, Garden
of Priapus, 92, 146, 202, 22022. M. Gleason, The Semiotics of Gender, and the
works noted in no. 26 above.
89. On the noun patience or endurance, see Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary,
190, citing Sen. Quaest.Nat. 1.16.6 and Petr. Sat. 9.6 (muliebris patientiae).
90. Adams, Latin Sexual Vocabulary, 192, on inclino (to lie down ,and take it.)
for pathic intercourse, citing the SJuv. 2.21: inclinatum ad stuprum et sustinentem.
91. In the so-called Laudatio Turiae 1.35, 2.21, 51, 66 and 69; see E. Ramage,
Athenaeum 82 (1994): 34170.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

297

inferior role was properly played by a woman and in which the man experienced his rightful pleasure. This passion was good. In his writings, the
Christian ideologue Tertullian commonly employed the word, and so was
able to play on the dual meanings of passio as sexual pleasure in heterosexual intercourse and as the physical suffering of the body. In a parallel
development, patientia, the endurance of suffering, was coming to have a
positive rather than negative valuation.
A patience (patientia) that enclosed both suffering and endurancethe
ability passively to hold out, often in the hope of better, became the cardinal virtue of Christians under threat. The ideology and its attendant
novel terminology is strewn throughout the works of Tertullian, but is
consciously and clearly explicated in a treatise he devoted to the subject:
De Patientia.92 In it Tertullian clearly distinguishes this endurance from
the previous non-Christian sense of patience.93 He envisages a striking image of this endurance as a feminine being. He imagines patientia as a
woman in dress and deportmentdemure, shy, withdrawn, passivethe
alumna or foster child of god.94 Tertullian accept that this was, indeed,
not just a female, but also a servile virtuethe sort of behaviour and practice that was inculcated in slaves, and to which they became inured in
showing due respect to their masters.95 In explicating its specific meaning
Tertullian was able to appeal to the charter of the Sermon on the Mount,
where it was foretold that the poor and the weak would inherit the Kingdom of God.96 Moreover, by linking it to the vision of patience in the
Pauline charter which held that love is that which is able to endure all,
Tertullian could merge the two senses of passion into a more coherent and
logical whole.97
Patience or the simple ability to outlast the persecutor was also inextricably linked to the other feminine virtue of hopehope for a better
life, a divine promise of what was there for the patient, if only one could
wait. This quasi-millennial expectation gave a larger, more-than-personal element to Christian endurance. It was the new body that would benefit from a reversal of present conditions. No pain, no suffering: the body
would become impatient. The Apocalypse of John envisages this tran92. CSEL 76.140 f. 5 CCL 1.319 f., usually dated to 198203.
93. Tert. Pat. 16, esp. 16.1.
94. Tert. Pat. 15.
95. Tert. Pat. 4.14.
96. Tert. Pat. 11.59; that is to say, the emergence of a hidden transcript ideology
of the poor that espoused different values and aspirations from those of the lite ideology.
97. Tert. Pat. 12.910; see I Cor 13.413.

298

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

scendent state when he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there
shall be no more death, no more grief, crying, or painfor those earlier
things will have passed away.98 These linkagesa patience grounded in
endurance, a transcendent paradise, death, and hopewere consciously
enunciated in the generation before Tertullian in the word attributed to
the martyr Justin.99 Tertullian argues that this patientia or endurance is
of supreme importance to mind and bodyit is through it that one becomes the lord and master of ones body. The twin disciplines that are
needed are those of control of food (diet) and then the higher and more
difficult control of sexual desires.100 Thus prepared, the body can battle
against persecutors, can bear up under the harshness of imprisonment, of
beatings and chains. Nothing more than sheer endurance of the body is
required, he claims, to experience the blissful happiness of the second baptism. When one is master of ones body through patience, then one can
hold out against every physical threat directed against itwhips, fire, the
cross, wild beasts and . . . the sword.101
The ideology became increasingly formalized in the mid-third century
in the midst of the first systematic empire-wide persecutions of Christians
ordered by the emperors Decius and Valerian. The course of these attacks
on bodies (more powerful and thorough than earlier, sporadic efforts)
concomitantly empowered martyrs and confessors on a new scaleone
that openly threatened their hierarchy of public ecclesiastical power.
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, himself martyred at the end of this renewed
persecution (in 258) delivered a monitory talk on the new problems. It
was entitled On the Good of Endurance (De bono patientiae).102
Cyprian was under considerable pressure to define a role for the body in
this power struggleto constrain it to acceptable ends in terms of a Christian ecclesiology and, simultaneously, to maintain and harness its pres98. Rev 7.17; and esp. 21.14, beginning Then I saw a new heaven and a new
earth.
99. Justin was asked by Rusticus, the Praefectus Urbi: If you are whipped and then
beheaded, do you believe that you are going to ascend to heaven? Justins reply is
(Rec.A 5.2): Elpzw ekt
hv u pomon
hv e`
an u pomenw. (Rec.B 5.2 has much the same
wording); see no. 4 (in) G. Krger & G. Ruhbach, eds., Ausgewhlte Mrtyrerakten4
(Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr-Paul Siebeck, 1965), 1518, at 5.2 (p. 17).
100. Tert. Pat. 13, on a crudely corporeal controlechoing Pauline themes.
101. Tert. Pat. 13.8.
102. Cyprian, De bono patientiae (CSEL 3.3), 397415; J. Molager, ed., Cyprien
de Carthage: A Donat [et] La Vertu de Patience, SC 291 (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1982);
composed towards 255, and under the influence of Tertullians ideas. In comment, see
M. Spanneut, Patience et temps chez saint Cyprien de Carthage, (in) Littrature et
Religion: Mlanges offerts M. le Chanoine Joseph Copin 5 Mlanges de science
rligieuse, suppl. vol. 23 (Lille, 1966), 711.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

299

ence to confront the real threat of persecution. Cyprian addressed his


parishioners in a repetitious and hammering verbal assault. Christian endurance, he argued, must be distinguished from the false patience of the
philosophers. Their endurance is displayed for the virtue of the self,
whereas ours, asserts Cyprian, is marked by humility and softness.
Christian endurance was self-abnegating to the point of slavishness since
in fact we are the sons and slaves of the father and the lord.103
Cyprians patience is partially modeled on (and contributes to) a typology offered by Christ who always offered the other cheek and who
endured all physical insults to his body. In Cyprians ideological reconstruction, however, the voice of woman is systematically read out of the
explanation. It is the patriarchs who were the progenitors of the Christian ideal. The vox muliebris is introduced to the argument only to explain
how and why endurance had to become the normal mode of all human
existence.104 It is at this point in his argument that Cyprian introduces the
second motif of Christian patience: the ability of the persecuted to endure
not only the present attacks on them, but also to wait both for the better
life that awaited themand also for revenge.105 For those who are patient the day will come, he promises, when the great judge will return in
anger and establish the final court in which he will mete out just punishment to all his enemies. The monotonous density of the text that presses
home on virtually every other line the terms of endurance (patior, patientia), of bearing up (sustinere, sustinentia), and of suffering and forbearance (toleror, tolerantia), matches the force with which this patience
had become the ideological and behavioral pivot of the Christian body.
Set against this Christian body were parallel developments in converging tendencies to explicating a common problem of body and power
(though within distinct social nexus). Some of these other possibilities are
perhaps best exemplified by the intense somatic contemplations of Aelius
Aristides.106 It is an ideology in which, as it has been put, the emphasis
on pain and suffering reflects a widespread cultural concern of the period
that used representations of bodily pain and suffering to construct a new
103. Cypr. Bon. pat. 13.
104. Cypr. Bon. pat. 11, 18; beginning with the vox mulieris tuae (of Eve, of course).
105. Cypr. Bon. pat. 2124.
106. J. Perkins, The Self as Sufferer, HTR 85 (1992): 24572 [Ideology, not
Pathology, ch. 7 (in) The Suffering Self: Pain and Representation in the Early Christian Era (London-New York: RKP, 1995), 17399]; to which, however, must be added
the research of Danielle Gourevitch, La maladie comme preuve dexistence: Laventure dAelius Aristide et ses interprtations, ch. 1.1 (in) Le triangle hippocratique dans
le monde grco-romaine: Le malade, sa maladie et son mdecin (Paris-Rome: Ecole
franaise de Rome, 1984), 1759.

300

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

subjectivity of the human person.107 The strong somatization of the


dream messages dispatched to Aristides by his god, and meticulously
recorded by himself in an immense diary, presents us with a manifest case
of identity, a subjectivity, created around the suffering body. But the patient thus constructed marked a significant departure from the external
civic definition of the man as self. Submission, suffering, and heroic endurance are now linked to a careful contemplation of ones own body. The
discourse in which Aristides is engaged, however, is distinctively his own,
and is located in a realm ideas and rhetoric separate from that of the
Christian ideologues. Not once does he express himself in the elaborate
ideology (or attendant jargon) of hypomon or its implicit political dimensions.108 Never once does Aristides read the terms of his bodily argument back into the sphere of the public transcript where it might conceivably be used as leverage against a threatening public authority. On the
contrary, his ideology seems only to signal a rather painful implosion inwards on the physical self.
THE BODY
The increasing prominence of this particular discourse of the body, of active resistance through the patient body, is significant since its deployment
was coterminous with a crisis impending on the Roman state. Since the
problems were being contested in small settings in a myriad local social
milieux, the degree of awareness that state officials had of them is uncertain. The confrontation, however, was a critical one that struck at the ideological foundations of the states social order. Such challenges had to be
met with a finality in which the state publicly demonstrated its superior
power by physically breaking the undesirable behaviour of recalcitrant
subjects. Because of the way these trials and executions were staged, the
body became central to demonstrations of power. A further reason has
been noted:109
. . . at particular moments when there is within a society a crisis of belief
that is, when some central idea or ideology or cultural construct has ceased to
elicit a populations belief either because it is manifestly fictitious or because
it has for some reason been divested of ordinary forms of substantiationthe
107. Perkins, The Self as Sufferer, 246.
108. He simply does not use the technical vocabulary; this is allied to the observations, for example, of Perkins, The Self as Sufferer, 255 f., on the place of bodily
contemplation and the type of self that Aristides is constructing.
109. E. Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 14.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

301

sheer material factualness of the human body will be borrowed to lend that
cultural construct the aura of realness and certainty.

For those who came as spectators to this public drama, torture and the
systematic rending of the body was needed to reveal the individual subjects feebleness, to exact a terrible public vengeance for non-compliance
and to produce the truth.
The problem was that actual bodies were caught up on crisscrossing,
and immensely contradictory discourses of power. The Roman state had
its own, as did its local officials (mainly, in these cases, the provincial governors), as did local communities, and the various ethnic and class groups
within them, and the persons who were Christians. Every trial was therefore a matter of fixing identities. Both identification and the attendant
confession took the form of a series of I am statements. The protocol
of any trial and interrogation began with the formal question of Who
are you? and Whats your status?110 The permanent institutional
venues within and through which these confrontations were to be played
out were also various, disaggregated, and firmly embedded in local cultural environments. Therefore, a basic conclusion now widely conceded:
for a long period, extending at least over a century and a half, incidents
of persecution were sporadic, uncertain, haphazard and dispersed through
odd local venues in the empire. It took a long time before the Roman state
at state level arrived at the idea and practice of a general state-ordered
persecution of the whole.111 The power relationships that came into play
in any given local instance were not uniform or wholly predictable. There
therefore existed a considerable range of negotiation in what would actually happena situation of which Christians were well aware.
In writing a monitory letter in c.e. 212 to P. Julius Scapula, the Roman
governor of Africa, Tertullian was already able to map out a range of
known alternatives in the repertoire. He could catalogue past variations
in confrontations between Christian defendants and provincial judges.
110. G. A. Bisbee, Pre-Decian Acts of Martyrs and Commentarii (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1988); e.g., the Gesta apud Zenophilum: Quis vocaris? Cuius condicionis es? Cuius dignitas es?they are the standard questions meant to establish
identity (CSEL 26.18597, at p. 185); a scenario that was profoundly fixed in dream
sequences of self-identification: see Jerome, Ep. 22.30.35 (CSEL 54.19091) and no.
115 below.
111. T. D. Barnes, Legislation Against the Christians, JRS 58 (1968): 3250 5 ch.
2 (in) Early Christianity and the Roman Empire (London: Variorum, 1984): a turning
point in our understanding of the structure and tempo of persecutions in the empire.

302

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

The governor could coach the defendant as to how to reply so as to make


the case one that was legally dismissable. Or, since the governor was generally responsible for a larger law and order in the society as a whole, he
could simply decide to dismiss the case on the basis that it was likely to
cause a greater social disturbance that it was worth. Or, having already
entered into a case and then sensing that he was needlessly becoming too
deeply involved in complex local disputes, he might seek to divest himself
of the problemlike the governor C. Iulius Asper who having only moderately tortured a man, took him down from the instruments and did not
compel him to sacrifice. Asper confessed to his legal advisers that he was
upset with himself that he had ever become involved in the case in the first
place. Or the governor could resist local pressures by using the grounds
of a lack of proper procedures. Thus after shaking down one defendant and having acquired some evidence from him, the governor dismissed the case, cutting short his initial statement of charges (elogium) on
the basis that there was no formal accuser present and, according to his
mandate, he would not proceed under such circumstances. The known
spaces and possibilities for resistance in this social narrative, from point
of arrest onwards, were therefore well known.112 As long as Christians
would not play their part governors always had to balance a whole set of
countervailing pressures against any good that was likely to eventuate for
them from their trial, torture, and execution.
We know that at least some Christians did not behave in public like the
criminals they were supposed to be. Such criminal behavioral symptoms
were well known and signaled in public by a pervasive body language of
self-abasement: blushing, sweating, signs of fear and shame, shuffling,
bowing, scraping, signs of repentance and remorse, weeping, and so
on.113 That was the behavior of persons who were convinced of their own
guilt by the overpowering rituals of court and awe of the law with
which they were faced. The Christians bodily symptoms, movements,
and gestures, however, did not signal guilt but rather the reverse, and
hence were an implicit condemnation of the whole system.114 Indeed, the
112. Tert. Scap. 4.3 f.
113. Tert. Apol. 1.1013, and his discussion the emotions of timor, pudor, tergiversatio, paenitentia and deploratio ordinarily displayed by accused persons.
114. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, 20306, on the distinction. Context would dictate whether these bodily acts would be interpreted as conscious and deliberate, and not an accidental miscue that could be overlooked by the authorities
but, in most cases, by the point they were fixed in the formal confrontation of a trial,
it would be too late to overlook the all-too-obvious significance of public demeanor of
this sort.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

303

mere position of the body in space was important as a signifier of hierarchies of power. In the displays of trial and punishment, it was literally
placed lower: the governor and his assistants, the judges, were seated on
a high tribunalthe defendants were kept at ground level with the crowd
of spectators and had to mount the stairs of a separate platform (pulpitum, catasta) in order to be brought to the level of the governor for questioning and sentencing. This prostration of the body signified in itself, and
differentials of height between defendants and judges subliminally impressed itself even on consciously resisting Christians.115
That is to say, a physically lower position, having the body down, on
its knees, or prone to the ground, was taken in itself to indicate servility
and inferiority, weakness rather than power. Therefore, a physical position closer to the ground was implicitly regarded as being morally inferior and bad. The connection between bodily position and moral evaluation, and the revolution in values connected with valuing the inferior, the
humble, the womanly, that which merely accepts and endures (from a
prone position) is clearly indicated by the history of the words that were
used to describe being low to the ground or pronetapeinos and allied
terms (meaning low, prone, close to the ground, and consistently associated with being poor, weak, insignificant, and womanly).116 In this case
(unlike the verbal debates over hypomenein) there was never any confusion or vacillation of an absolute frontier of meaning by the ideologues of
the classical city-state and their heirs. The almost palpable association of
moral status and bodily position was so strong and so inalterable that the
classical conceptions that pervaded the thought-world of the Greek polis
and all its successor ideologies surrendered no ground on this matter. To
be tapeinos was to be weak, poor, submissive, slavish, womanish, and
therefore had an indelible connection with shame, humiliation, degradation and, inexorably, with that which was morally bad. The words when
used by the LXX, Philo, and Josephus never waver from these fundamental and basic meanings. It is the Christian writings of the New Testament that revolutionize these values wholly by their total inversion. Paul
boasts of his self-abasement and humility, and draws attention to the ef115. Goffman, Gender Advertisements, 40. For dreams of Christian martyrs in
which the height of the tribunal of the judge becomes an overpowering image, see the
martyrdom of Marianus and Jacobus, no. 15 (in) Krger & Ruhbach, Ausgewhlte
Mrtyrerakten4, 6774, at ch. 6, pp. 6970; cf. Jeromes dream, Ep. 22.30.35 (CSEL
54.19091) for much the same effect.
116. H. Grundmann, tapeinv, tapeinw, tapenwsiv, tapeinfrwn,
tapeinofronsnh, TDNT 8 (1972/1975), 126.

304

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

fort one must make to strive towards the final virtue that should be
claimed by the Christian, that of being tapeinos. Indeed, he actually creates a new virtuetapeinosophrun (tapeinosofrnh)the voluntary
abasement of the self and ones body.117 To be low, base, prone, and exposed was now at the heart of the definition of being good.
This takes us, full circle, to the scene of execution so vividly described
by Jerome at the head of this paper and which systematically attached
bodily position and location to the more general gender/erotic system of
honor in his world. The condemned woman, on her knees, her hands tied
behind her back and sword placed to throat, was to suffer not just the
obliteration of her body, but simultaneously to enact a violent sexual
metaphor. The man who held his sword at her throat, threatened her identity to assert his, ended her being to further his. This was not just an act
of bare physical violence or coercion. It was also the sexual assertion of
a social order. If this much is not guaranteed by Jeromes duplicitous
words, it is revealed in scenarios of a more overtly erotic/violent nature
found in the curse tablets and clay figurine voodoo dolls deployed by
unrequited lovers of the time. One of these pieces is particularly disturbing to modern eyes, since it is shocking to turn the page of an academic
book, or journal, to find oneself confronted with the figurine of a woman
whose body is being cruelly pierced by no less than thirteen sharp bronze
needles.118 The librettos that accompanied such dolls makes clear the significance of the enactment of the same bodily positions, movements, and
violence reported so pruriently by Jerome.119
Take wax [or clay] from a potters wheel and make two figures, a male and a
female. Make the male in the form of Ares fully armed, holding his sword in
his left hand and threatening to plunge it into the right side of her throat.
And make her with arms behind her back and down on her knees. . . .
(296303)
117. Elsewhere only in Epictetus 3.24.56.
118. P. du Bourguet, Ensemble magique de la periode romaine en Egypte? La Revue du Louvre 25 (1975): 25557, cf. the reproduction in J. Gager, Curse Tablets and
Binding Spells from the Ancient World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), no.
27, pp. 9497, and fig. 13, p. 98; the accompanying text: S. Kambitsis, Une nouvelle
tablette magique dEgypte, BIFAO 76 (1976): 21330 5 SEG 26, no. 1717. Two
more figurines of this type have been noted subsequently: C. Faraone, Binding and
Burying the Forces of Evil: The Defensive Use of Voodoo Dolls in Ancient Greece,
CA 10 (1991): 165205 (pls. 113, 206220), p. 204, no. 27.
119. K. Preisendanz, ed., Papyri Graecae Magicae: Die griechische Zauberpapyri,
1 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1928), IV.296466 (pp. 8286) 5 H. D. Betz, tr., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, including the Demotic Spells (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1986), 4446.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

305

The scene manages to mix threatened violence, execution and a stream of


double entendres hinting at fellatio/irrumatio.120 What follows is, quite
literally, writing on the body as the man who is seeking to control the
woman writes fabulous and threatening curses on each part of her anatomyincluding, above all, her name and her mothers name on her breasts.
Fearsome demonic forces of the night and underworld are summoned.
The woman is to be compelled, bound, forced and driven. She is to be cut
off sexually from any other:
Let her be in love with me, x, whom she, x, bore. Let her not be had in a
promiscuous way, let her not be had in the ass, nor let her do anything with
any other man for pleasure, just with me alone. . . . (35153)

The parallels with Jeromes vignette follow as we discover that what is being encouraged is adultery. To this end, violent force is to be used:
. . . do not allow her, x, to accept for pleasure the attempt of another man,
not even that of her own husband, just that of mine, x. Instead, drag her,
x, by the hair, by her heart, by her soul, to me, x, at every hour of life, day
and night, until she comes to me, x, and may she, x, remain inseparable
from me. Do this, bind her for all the time of my life and help force her, x,
to be serviceable to me. (37583)

The homologies with the physical attitudes of humiliation required by a


Roman execution are obvious. It is the deliberate placing of the body in
a position from which, as it has been noted, it is almost impossible to defend oneself. The parallels then run through body position, femininity,
subordination, and control.121 Therein lay the specific continuities in the
new economy of the body that were to be embedded at the center, somewhat ironically, by Christian ideologues and those martyrs who exemplified the new practice. But, perhaps not so ironically, it took place in the
120. The standard English translation tends to disguise the double signification. By
holding the sword, quite unusually, in his left hand, the armed man makes clear one
of his intentionsnot the hand in which one usually held the weapon of armor, but
rather that of life (the left also signifying bad luck and ill omen); the verb kataplssw
signifies an attempt to bully and terrorize as much as actually to strike someone; the
noun kataklev can mean the clavicular bone or that part of the neck, but most often
it signifies a sheathed receptacle for a pointed object (a key, a bolt, a pin, an arrow or
a dagger); for other parallels, see J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 1975; reprint:
1993), 130 f., esp. nos. 140 f.; as a receptacle for a key, see Aristoph. Vesp. 154; as a
womans neck or throat region: II Macc 3.19.
121. It is therefore somewhat surprising that Winkler, The Constraints of Desire,
934, exculpates these protocols from representing a not-too-covert sexual violence
involving women.

306

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

theater of the national pornography of the Roman stateits public executions. Here the rending of flesh in public could be linked to the bravery
exemplified by a woman in her confrontation with Roman authority and,
simultaneously, to a language of love.122 So the whole of the story of the
young Spanish girl Eulalia, as re-created by Prudentius, is embedded in
explicit erotic contexts.123 As the iron hooks of the executioners rake
across and through her breasts, it is Eulalia (she who speaks well) who
notes the marks made by them as a species of writing on her body.124 She
counts the letters (notas) as they appear on her body, and utters the
words:125
See, my lord, you are writing on me.
How I love to read these letters
which, my Christ, record your triumphs.
The dark scarlet of my blood pouring out
speaks your holy name.

In ordinary discourse, to have ones body written on was in itself a sign


of inferiority. To have a name inscribed on ones body was a sign of servilitya visible mark of the ownership of ones self by another. But the
language of love could reverse the meaning.126
122. Her story begins with a planned, then rejected, marriage and then advances to
her arrest, torture, and the taunt and challenge delivered to her torturers: ergo age,
tortor, adure, seca, divide membra coacta luto (Prud. Peri. 3.912).
123. J. Petruccione, The Portrait of St. Eulalia of Mrida in Prudentius Peristephanon 3, AnBoll 108 (1990): 81104, p. 98: . . . the description of Eulalias laceration seems a mixture of the violent with the erotic comparable to, if less explicit
than, the speech with which Agnes rushed upon the executioners sword (Pe.
14.7579); at p. 98 Petruccione suggests that the wounds on her body forming letters that spell Christs name recall the 144,000 in the Apocalypse who had the name
of the Lamb written on their foreheads (14.1); it is only fair, however, to point out
that these virgins are all males who had not allowed themselves to be defiled by
women.
124. Prud. Peri. 3.13540:
Scriberis ecce mihi, Domine.
Quam iuvat hos apices legere
qui tua, Christe, tropaea notant.
nomen et ipsa sacrum loquitur
purpura sanguinis eliciti.

125. As in Jerome, the language is heavily erotic. Dominus can mean husband or
lover; tropaeum is used in love poetry for a sexual conquest (e.g., Ovid, Ep. 4.66,
9.104, 20.214; Rem. 158); and the last verses hint at a lost virginity.
126. C. P. Jones, Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity,
JRS 77 (1987): 13955.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

307

LUGDUNUM: WARS MOST PEACEFUL


In the summer of the year c.e. 177 there erupted another one of those typical but terrible pogroms in which the enraged crowds of a local populace, this time of the Gallo-Roman city of Lugdunum (modern-day Lyon),
turned on suspected Christians in their midst and demanded that Roman
government, personified in the governor, punish the outcasts appropriately.127 The persecution began with local municipal authorities taking
pre-emptive measures to banish the mere sight of Christians from public
placesthey forbade Christians to visit each others houses, to frequent
the market-place and baths, and, finally, to be seen in any place whatsoever. The writer, who witnessed the violent actions of the crowd, reports the sequel in which Christians were hauled from their homes,
cursed, bound and beaten, dragged, torn and stoned. But, he claims, they
were able nobly to endure all these attacks (gennais hypomenon). As the
observer makes clear in his general assessment of the onslaught, it was because God made the weak strong that the Christians were empowered and
acquired the endurance to resist the attack of the Evil One (dunamenos
dia ts hypomons pasan tn hormn tou ponrou).128 Power is gained
through submission.
Both sides acted within a moral economy in which harassments and
punishments were traditional and well known. The local populace inflicted on the bodies of the Christians all the things which the people generally love to inflict on their enemies and hated persons. On their side,
the Christians could now summon equally traditional ways in which to
meet and to resist the attacks on their bodies. The main appeal in the narrative is to the model of the competitive athlete. In his preamble the
author of the letter names the martyrs athletes of piety (eusebeias athltn)their manliness and courage (andreia) wins battles more important than any war, their trophies are taken from demons, their victories
(nikai) are over invisible opponents, and crowns (stephanoi) are their reward. God will inscribe their names on everlasting monuments.129 Similarly, the role of the devil is seen as that of an athletic adversary (ho antikeimenos) who has practiced and trained his supporters in athletic and
gymnastic skills.130 In his evaluation of the martyrs who succeeded with127. Eusebius, HE 5.pr.1.12.8.
128. Euseb. HE 5.1.67.
129. Euseb. HE 5.1.1.
130. Euseb. HE 5.1.5: ejzwn

to`uv eauto

u ka`i progumnzwn kat`a t


wn dolwn
jeou. . . .

308

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

standing these attacks on their bodies (as opposed to those who found the
sufferings too great), the writer explicitly appeals to athletic models: the
bodies of the victorious were ready, trained, and eager whereas the bodies of the losers were untrained, unexercized, and feeble and therefore
not adequately prepared for the great contest.131 In the horrendous tortures that followed, it is indeed the body and its ability to resist that counted for everything.
As the arrests continued in both Vienne and Lyon, the house-slaves of
the Christians were seized and put to torture. They were not able to resist. After they had witnessed the application of torture with their own
eyes, simple fear was sufficient to cause them to surrender. The authorities and the crowd then advanced to attack the Christians themselves.
Christians were subject to indescribable tortures so that The Enemy could
force the appropriate words from their lips.132 The torture of Sanctus was
an especially good example, since the writer forthrightly states that his
body itself was a witness (to smation martys) to what actually happened,
and because the witnessing of Sanctuss body is explicitly tied to noble endurance (gennais hypomenn). Sanctuss resistance continued to the
point that no raw material was left on which the torturers could work
his body, tortured and twisted out of all human shape, was reduced to
one great wound. When the torturers began a second assault on his
body, thinking that he was no longer capable of endurance, it is Sanctuss
body itself that humiliates them. Despite their repeated attacks on it,
his body actually straightens out and regains its former appearance.133
The purpose of the torture was defeated not only by the corporeal action
of the body, but also in verbal enunciation. Sanctus would pronounce
none of the identifications of self required by the authoritiesno words
escaped his lips other than I am a Christian.
The reader enters and exits the narrative of the tortures through the
body of Blandina. It is with her that the body becomes central. The irony
is that her body is doubly weak: that of a woman and that of a slave. She
embodied that which men judged to be cheap, ugly, and contemptuous.
But she is able to refute these dominant valuations not with her physical
131. Euseb. HE 5.1.11: ka`i fanero ka`i etoimoi egnonto prwtomturev, oi ka`i
met`a pshv projumav a neplhroun t`hn o mologan thv marturav, efanonto

d`e ka`i
o a ntoimoi ka`i a
gmnastoi ka`i
eti a sjeneiv, a g
wnov meglou tnon enegke

in m`h
dunmenoi. . . .
132. Euseb. HE 5.1.1415.
133. Euseb. HE 5.1.2324: olon trauma . . . ka`i a pobeblhk`ov t`hn a njrpeion
exwjen morfhn
. . . a nwrjjh t`o swmtion en
taiv metpeita basnoiv, ka`i t`hn i dan
a plaben t h
` n protran. . . .

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

309

appearance (eidos) but with her personal power (dynamis). The figure of
Blandina is counterpoised to her mistress in the flesh (ts sarkinas despoins auts)the woman who owned Blandinas body. This slave owner was herself a Christian woman who was caught up in the contest (mia
agnistria), but who was in agony (agniss) lest her slave-woman
Blandina not be able to hold out because of her bodily weakness (dia to
asthenes tou smatos). Contrary to the mistress assumptions, Blandina
is able to endureno doubt because she could draw upon two intersecting traditional subscripts of bodily resistance, that of women (compare
the two stories at the head of this paper) and that of slaves. She is able to
do this to such an extent that the effect on the bodies and minds of her
torturers is reversed. It is they who become exhausted and wearied, and
they who are forced to confess. She therefore wins the contest and is hailed
as a noble athlete (hs gennaios athlts) no less that a male martyr like
Maturus who is labeled a noble contestant (gennaios agnists). Blandinas achievements are contrasted with those of another woman, named
Biblis, whose body had been eaten by the devil and which was therefore easily broken and unmanly (anandros). At the end of this first test,
Blandinas only words are I am a Christian (Christian eimi).134 In his
peroration the narrator is insistent that all these witnesses, including the
slave woman Blandina, have finally achieved nobility through patience
(tn eugeneian dia ts hypomons).
BODY AND SOCIETY
In the power struggle between Christians and the Roman state, and in the
passions of the martyrs, the consciously elaborated ideology of hypomon
took on greater and greater significance, until it came to have a commanding presence in Christian perceptions of the body. The appropriations of experience became ever more insistent, with whole treatises and
sermons devoted to the subject (Table 1). On grounds such as these, it has
been possible to construct an argument for the body as the critical site of
power discourses that flow through it and are inscribed upon ita substance at the epicenter of the microactions and resistances that constitute
and are power. Whatever cautions and caveats that have been issued
about the use of such an hypothesis, however, its actual application has
naturally tended to constitute the body predominantly in a passive mode.
Such an implosive and fragmented construction of power is no small part
of the reason why these theorists are reduced to speaking of all other pow134. Euseb. HE 5.1.1719: Xristian h
eimi.

310

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

Table 1. Selected References to kartera and pomonh

Author

kartera

pomonh

25

31

19

New Testament

25

Ignatius

12

Gregory of Nyssa

24

Clement of Alexandria

47

Athanasius

10

49

Eusebius

32

67

99

14

105

145

93

550

Septuagint
Philo

Origen
Basil
Macarius (Ps.)
John Chrysostom

Comments
All kartepa refs. are
from IV Maccabees

All pomonh

refs. are
from Pauline texts

Note: For all authors, but notably in the cases from Gregory of Nyssa onward, the count
includes all texts in TLG, even those that have been attributed to the author on dubious
grounds. The caveat is as follows: no particular emphasis is placed on a given author by himself in isolation, but rather on the overall pattern as it develops from the first century b.c.e.
to the fourth and fifth centuries c.e. Over this span of time, it would seem that the earlier
creators of Christian ideology tended to eschew the vocabulary of karteria, whereas those
who were writing later out of more cultivated milieux, and who were enmeshing the
higher discourses of Hellenism with Christianity, tended to use both the vocabulary of
strength, power, and aggression and that of patience and endurance, though with an
increasing tendency to prefer the latter. The total absence of the language of karteria in the
Pseudo-Macarius would seem to argue for a later date than the fourth century usually attributed to his works. Finally, by John Chrysostom is meant the Chrysostomic corpus,
which therefore necessarily includes later works attributed to that author.

er formations as not much more than hegemonial cumulations of micropower struggles in the body.135 The evidence and scenes adduced here
would nuance this perspective. Since it is indeed the means by which we
experience and are imbued with the unspoken assumptions of our culture,
135. In this regard, as in that of the history of sexuality, the late Foucault came
to change his mind and seemed (albeit in his own inimitable fashion) to accept the problem of more hierarchical structures of power relations, including the critical function
of institutions.

SHAW/PASSIONS OF THE MARTYRS

311

it is true that the body itself is a map of memory and bears the imprint of
ones own and social remembrance.136 But it is equally true that this field
of personal power meets strong oppositions and resistances in the objective or structural continuities that long outlast, and extend far beyond,
the existence of any one body.
It is that longer term duration of new institutional changes that were
taking deep root beginning in the first centuries before and during the
common era that compelled a newly negotiated view of the body: a civil
body under trial and test in a civic rgime of power, and one that had to
have a place in the new structures of belief. It is found explicated in the
fictions of the timein the romantic tales purveyed by the novelists, the
dreamscapes of local notables and sophists, the literary inventions of Stoic philosophers, and the myths of Christian ideologues.137 It called for the
rewriting of old texts which had once highlighted the virtues of political
opposition of the community, and the victorious struggle for a new terrestrial order, a new state to be achieved here on earth. The mode of passivity was not so much an autonomous virtue as a necessity, and one that
compelled a new centrality of previously subversive values.
The body was indeed the site of a struggle. The spectacular trials and
executions of the Christians are but an extreme instance of the use of force
to elicit a certain public behaviour from subject bodies, to inscribe one
sort of ideology on the body. In this case, it was rejected. Not only did
such attempts fail in individual casesthe cumulative effect of individual
acts of resistance compelled a final failure in the long term. This observation would suggest that bodies could be self-inscribed with ideologies that
ran wholly contrary to those of the dominant power. Individuals could
choose to forge and hold ideas about themselves and their bodies independently of the set repertoire presented to them. By appropriating and
mutating existing ones, by using the justifications and legitimations of existing ideologies of power as leverage for their own views, and by deciding to place their conceptions in action and priority before those being
136. P. Bourdieu, The Dialectic of Objectification and Embodiment, (in) Outline
of a Theory of Practice, transl. R. Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1977), 8795 [Esquisse dune thorie de la pratique (Geneva-Paris: Droz, 1972)]; Belief and the Body, ch. 4 (in) The Logic of Practice, transl. R. Nice (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1990), 6679 [Le sens pratique (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1980)];
further developed by Paul Connerton, Bodily Practices, ch. 3 (in) How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 72102.
137. As emphasized by Goldhill, Foucaults Virginity, these texts were largely ignored by Foucault in his construction of sexuality in Graeco-Roman society; and they
are not, by any means, the only body of relevant evidence that was not taken into consideration.

312

JOURNAL OF EARLY CHRISTIAN STUDIES

forced upon them, humans could create ever new mutations of bodily perception. This could involve a process as radical as a total inversion of the
dominant male discourse on the body, the selective appropriation of its
values, and the elevation of feminine bodily powers as the primary
modes of identification and resistance. In the truth of the identity which
they wished to assert, an inverted image of the body had become the quintessential weapon of the weak.138 But those bodies were still finite, mortal, isolated, and weak; and they faced the long-term durability of institutional power. Institutions were containers of a more enduring power,
and maintained both a relative and a final control of both violent and coercive force.139 It was these institutional forcesan organizational apparatus, a program of education, policing functionaries, a body of servitors,
pervasive writings and records, an hierarchical membership and officialdomthat remembered, conferred and supported public identities, classified, and, not inconsequentially, made enduring life and death decisions
that were successfully enforced.140 The evidence of this investigation,
therefore, points forcefully in the direction of the strong dialectic between
individual and structure, in both space and time. The residual problem
was that, although the body might well never lie, the variant truths embedded in it were often as contradictory and conflict ridden as those in
the world outside it. It alone could not subvert institutions or corporate
bodies which had their own, much greater, endurance. Only new incorporations could do that. From the perspective of the individual human
body, all of this was a terrible hypocrisy. As even the martyrs themselves
confessed, their passivity remained a paradoxin order to win, one had
to lose.
Brent D. Shaw is Professor of Classics at The University of Pennsylvania

138. James C. Scott, Normal Exploitation, Normal Resistance, ch. 2 (in)


Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven-London:
Yale University Press, 1985), 2847.
139. Crespi, Social Action and Power, 109 f., who reinstates some Weberian verities against postmodernist views on the diffusion of power relations.
140. Mary Douglas, How Institutions Think (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press,
1986), esp. chs. 59.